• Needle Biopsy: Thyroid

    (Fine-Needle Aspiration: Thyroid; Skinny-Needle Biopsy: Thyroid; Coarse-Needle Biopsy: Thyroid; Core Needle Biopsy: Thyroid)


    A needle biopsy use a needle to removal of a small piece of tissue or fluid for testing. In this case the tissue is removed from the thyroid gland.

    Reasons for Procedure

    A thyroid biopsy is usually done when a lump is found in the thyroid. The lump is often called a thyroid nodule. These nodules are fairly common and usually do not need treatment. Only about 5% of nodules are cancer .
    The needle biopsy is usually done to see if a nodule is cancer. The biopsy may also be done if there is no nodule but the thyroid is enlarged.
    Thyroid Nodule
    Nucleus image
    © 2011 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Possible Complications

    Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a needle biopsy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
    • Bleeding
    • Bruising where the needle was inserted
    • Pain after the procedure
    • Infection

    What to Expect

    Prior to Procedure

    In the days leading up to your procedure:
    • Have blood tests
    • Talk to your doctor about your medical history, including any allergies.
    • Talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking. You may be need to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
      • Anti-inflammatory drugs (eg, aspirin )
      • Blood thinners, like warfarin (Coumadin)
      • Clopidogrel (Plavix)
    • Arrange for a ride home from the care center.


    Local anesthesia is used. The area that is affected will be numb.
    You may also be given a sedative to help you relax

    Description of the Procedure

    There are two types of biopsies:
    • Fine-needle aspiration (FNA)—most common
    • Coarse-needle biopsy (CNB)
    You will be asked to lie on your back. A pillow will be placed under your shoulders. Your neck will be extended. The site of the biopsy will be cleaned. For an FNA, your doctor will insert a tiny hollow needle into the nodule to collect a sample of tissue. For a CNB, your doctor will make a small cut in the skin. The needle will be inserted through the incision and into the thyroid to collect a sample. The process may need to be repeated several times. After the procedure, pressure will be applied to the biopsy site. A bandage will be applied.
    In some cases, your doctor will use ultrasound to help locate the area that needs to be sampled. If ultrasound is used, the doctor will place a transducer on your neck. The transducer will send images to a screen for your doctor to view. These images will be used to locate the nodule and to guide the needle. This helps to make sure your doctor got a sample of the nodule and not the surrounding "normal" tissue.

    How Long Will It Take?

    About 10-30 minutes (plus 30 minutes in the recovery room)

    Will It Hurt?

    You may feel soreness at the biopsy site for 1-2 days. Talk to your doctor about medications that may help.

    Post-procedure Care

    When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
    • If you had FNA, remove the bandage within a few hours. If you had CNB, remove the bandage in a few days.
    • Avoid vigorous physical activity for 24 hours.
    • Return to normal activities.
    • Take pain medicine (eg, Tylenol ) for any discomfort.
    • Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
    • Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.

    Call Your Doctor

    After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
    • Bleeding
    • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
    • Trouble breathing or swallowing
    • Excessive neck swelling
    • Unusual pain or discomfort
    In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.


    American Thyroid Association http://www.thyroid.org/

    Thyroid Foundation of America http://www.allthyroid.org/


    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/

    Thyroid Foundation of Canada http://www.thyroid.ca/


    Ross DS. Fine needle aspiration biopsy of thyroid nodules/instructions for patients undergoing core needle biopsy. Thyroid Foundation of Canada website. Available at: http://www.thyroid.ca/e12b.php . Accessed December 27, 2012.

    Thyroid nodules. American Thyroid Association website. Available at: http://www.thyroid.org/what-are-thyroid-nodules . Accessed December 27, 2012.

    Thyroid nodule. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated August 30, 2012. Accessed December 27, 2012.

    Thyroid nodules. New York Thyroid Center website. Available at: http://cpmcnet.columbia.edu/dept/thyroid/NodulesHP.html . Accessed December 27, 2012.

    Ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration biopsy of the thyroid. RadiologyInfo.org website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=thyroidbiopsy . Updated July 25, 2012. Accessed December 27, 2012.

    Revision Information

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