Is Fine Needle Aspiration of the Thyroid?
The thyroid is an important organ
in your endocrine system. It releases hormones that regulate many of the
functions in your body. The thyroid gland is near the base of the neck, just
below the Adam’s apple. Sometimes small nodules, or lumps, appear on the
thyroid. When this happens, the doctor may order a test known as fine needle
aspiration (FNA), or fine needle biopsy, to obtain tissue samples from the
thyroid for analysis.
Do I Need a Fine Needle Aspiration of the Thyroid?
Your doctor may order this test
if you have:
- a persistent
cough, hoarse voice, or unexplained sore throat for a long period
- nodules, or
lumps, on your throat that you can feel or see
- lumps that are
detected on a routine ultrasound
- a cyst, or
fluid-filled lump, on your thyroid
By aspirating, or obtaining
tissue from the site, your doctor will be able to see if the lump is cancerous
or not. Most of the time, the nodule will end up being a benign, or harmless,
tumor. If you have a cyst instead of a nodule, your doctor may perform fine
needle aspiration to drain the cyst.
Fine needle aspiration is the
only nonsurgical way to find out if any lumps or nodules are benign or
Do I Prepare for a Fine Needle Aspiration of the Thyroid?
While the test can be done in a
hospital, you may have the procedure done in your doctor’s office. You don’t
need to have a special diet or avoid any drinks or medications before the
procedure. If you take a blood-thinning medication, make sure to tell your
doctor. You may need to avoid taking it and other medications that thin the
blood, such as aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Avoid
wearing necklaces or any other jewelry that may interfere.
If you’re nervous or anxious
about the procedure, discuss your concerns with the doctor. It’s important that
you are able to lie still for an extended period.
Happens During a Fine Needle Aspiration of the Thyroid?
Before the procedure begins, you
may need to put on a gown.
When the procedure begins, your
doctor will ask you to lie down. You will feel a cold sensation as your doctor
cleans your neck with iodine or another solution that kills any harmful germs
that may be on your skin. In some cases, your doctor will use a local
anesthetic to numb the area, but this isn’t always necessary.
Next, your doctor will insert a
small needle into the nodule. You should not talk, swallow, or move while this
happens. Your doctor will repeat this a few times to make sure they have a
large enough sample for the analysis.
Happens After a Fine Needle Aspiration of the Thyroid?
The procedure usually lasts about
20 to 30 minutes. After the procedure, your doctor will place some gauze over
the area and apply pressure for several minutes to stop the bleeding. You may
see a small bruise on the area within a day or two.
Your doctor may tell you not to
take any medications that contain aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
for 24 to 48 hours.
Are the Complications Associated with Fine Needle Aspiration of the Thyroid?
Fine needle aspiration of the
thyroid is generally safe. Still, there are some risks, such as:
You may experience swelling,
bruising, or slight pain, which is normal. Call your doctor if you develop a
fever or continue to have swelling or more intense pain.
Do the Results Mean?
Your doctor will send your tissue
sample to a lab for analysis. The results are usually available within one
week. The results that come back will fall into one of four categories:
- benign (not
(may be cancerous)
(unable to tell from the sample)
Your doctor will discuss the
results with you and determine the next steps to take. If you have suspicious,
malignant, or inadequate results, you may need to have further procedures.