Thyroid Needle Biopsy Procedure

Provided by Premier Diagnostic Imaging

biopsies service icon from Premier Diagnostic Imaging in Cookeville, Tennesseethyroid fine needle aspiration biopsy defines a procedure during which a small tissue sample is removed from the thyroid gland. This tissue sample is then analyzed for abnormalities and signs of thyroid cancer.

What is the Thyroid?

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the front of the throat. A narrow strip called the isthmus connects the two lobes of the gland. The thyroid gland releases hormones.

Thyroid hormones affect many parts of the body, such as the heart, respiratory rate, and metabolism.

Why Do I Need a Thyroid Biopsy?

Nodules or growths on the thyroid gland may affect health. In such cases, your doctor might recommend thyroid imaging tests to help with a diagnosis. The doctor will schedule you for a non-invasive ultrasound scan of the thyroid. This determines size and location of any abnormalities of the thyroid gland.

After identification, the doctor usually requests a biopsy of the nodule for evaluation. Biopsy of thyroid nodules or abnormal tissue determines whether they are cancerous.

A pathologist looks at the tissues taken during the biopsy for signs of cancerous growth. Examination determines whether the nodule is malignant, meaning cancerous, or benign, meaning non-cancerous.

What is a Needle Biopsy of the Thyroid?

A needle biopsy is also called a fine needle aspiration biopsy (or FNA biopsy). This test involves use of a very thin and hollow needle. The needle collects (aspirates) cells from the nodule in or on the thyroid gland. Samples of cells are then sent to a laboratory for examination under a microscope.

How Do I Prepare?

You will be scheduled for a fine needle aspiration outpatient procedure, performed by a trained professional

Preparation by the patient is minimal. Tell your doctor if you’re taking blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants). Your doctor will give you specific instructions regarding medications based on medical history.

No fasting required!

What Happens During the Procedure?

During a fine needle aspiration procedure, follow the instructions of the radiologist. You will have to lie down on your back on the table, with your shoulders supported by a pillow. This position exposes the throat. The radiologist cleans the throat with an antiseptic. Local or topical anesthetics will help numb the area.

You might see the portable ultrasound console is situated nearby. The radiologist applies ultrasound gel to the throat. The radiologist holds a hand-held device known as a transducer, and passes the device gently over the throat to generate ultrasound images.

Lie still and do not speak during the biopsy, which takes only a few seconds.

Ultrasound technology helps guide the needle through the skin and into the nodule. You might feel slight pressure on the neck from the transducer. You may also feel a small prick as the needle pierces the skin and collects cells from the nodule. Discomfort is minimal.

What About Side Effects and Aftercare?

Thyroid biopsy procedures takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish. Patients rarely experience any side effects. Restrictions for activity following a fine needle thyroid biopsy are also rare. The site may be tender or sore for a day or two following the procedure. Take acetaminophen and use an ice pack to relieve mild discomfort.


Biopsy results will be obtained from the pathologist within 5-7 business days. We will send test results directly to your physician, who will discuss the results with you. Follow further recommendations for care based on your diagnosis and prognosis.


American Thyroid Association

Merck Manual Professional Version

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