Ultrasound Aspiration Biopsy of the 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 clean the area with chlorhexidine. You will receive an injection of local anesthetic to numb the area where the needle will be inserted. Your doctor will hold the area steady with one hand and insert a thin needle (attached to a syringe) into the numbed skin. 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.

How will it feel?

You will receive a local anesthetic and will feel a brief sting when it is injected. You also may feel some pressure when the biopsy needle is inserted. The site of the fine needle aspiration may be sore for a couple of days, and you may have a bruise. You will be provided with after-care instructions. Depending on the specific procedure, 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. You will be given a detailed instruction sheet for post-care. Contact your doctor if you have bleeding, redness, swelling, or a fever of more than 100.5F over the next couple of days.

How to Prepare

Follow the instructions given to you by the nurse or patient care coordinator. Please notify us at the time of scheduling if you take prescription blood thinners or over-the-counter NSAIDs.