Ultrasound Aspiration Biopsy of the Thyroid

ultrasound-thyroid
Ultrasound view of a thyroid

During a biopsy of the thyroid, a small sample of tissue is removed from the thyroid gland.

The thyroid gland is located in front of the neck just below the Adam’s apple and is shaped like a butterfly, with two lobes on either side of the neck connected by a narrow band of tissue. Nodules on the thyroid are often detected by imaging examinations. However, it is not always possible to tell from these imaging tests whether a nodule is benign or cancerous.

A needle biopsy, also called a needle aspiration, involves removing some cells from the suspicious area on the thyroid and examining them under a microscope to determine a diagnosis.

What to Expect

How is a fine-needle aspiration done?

Your doctor will wipe the area with rubbing alcohol or iodine. In most cases, you will receive an injection of local anesthetic to numb the area of your breast where the needle will be inserted. Your doctor will hold the lump steady with one hand and insert a thin needle (attached to a syringe) into the lump. He or she may move the needle in and out of the area to make sure to get enough tissue or fluid for the biopsy. Then he or she pulls on the plunger of the syringe to remove the tissue or fluid. The process takes a few seconds to a few minutes.

If the doctor cannot easily feel the mass, you may have an imaging test, such as a CT scan, ultrasound test, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or mammography to see where to put the needle. In this case, a doctor known as a radiologist may do the aspiration. If the lump is a cyst, the fluid is removed, and the lump usually goes away.

How will it feel?

If you receive a local anesthetic, you may feel a brief sting when it is injected. You also may feel some pressure when the biopsy needle is inserted. The amount of discomfort will depend on how much pain you feel from needles, the part of your body involved, and the skill of the doctor. The site of the fine-needle aspiration may be sore for a couple of days, and you may have a bruise. You should be able to return to work the same day or the next day.

What happens afterward?

Your doctor will apply pressure to the aspiration site to prevent bleeding and put an adhesive bandage on it. He or she may recommend that you take a mild pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), if you have discomfort when you get home. Keep the area dry for 24 hours.

Contact your doctor if you have bleeding, redness, swelling, or a fever of more than 100.5F over the next couple of days