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Fine needle aspiration of the thyroid

Definition

A fine needle aspiration of the thyroid gland is a procedure to remove thyroid cells for examination. The thyroid is located in front of the trachea (windpipe) at the top of the neck.

Alternative Names

Thyroid nodule fine needle aspirate biopsy; Biopsy - thyroid - skinny-needle; Skinny-needle thyroid biopsy

How the test is performed

This test may be done in the health care provider's office or in a hospital. Usually numbing medicine (anesthesia) is not needed because the needle is very thin.

You will lie on your back with a pillow under your shoulders and your neck extended. The biopsy site is cleaned. A thin needle is inserted into the thyroid, and a sample of thyroid cells and fluid are removed. The needle is then taken out.

Pressure will be applied to the biopsy site to stop any bleeding. The site will be covered with a bandage.

How to prepare for the test

Tell your health care provider if you have drug allergies, bleeding problems, or are pregnant. You should also make sure your health care provider has a current list of all medications you take, including herbal remedies and over-the-counter drugs.

How the test will feel

You may feel a sting as the needle is inserted.

Why the test is performed

This is a test to diagnose thyroid disease or thyroid cancer. It is often used to get information on thyroid lumps that can either be felt by the doctor or seen by ultrasound.

Normal Values

The thyroid tissue is normal in structure and the cells appear noncancerous under a microscope.

What abnormal results mean

Abnormal results may mean:

What the risks are

The main risk is bleeding into or around the thyroid gland. If bleeding is severe, the windpipe (trachea) may be compressed. This complication is rare.

Special considerations

References

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    Review Date: 5/17/2010

    Review By: Shabir Bhimji MD, PhD, Specializing in Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Midland , TX. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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