Fine Needle Biopsy
A biopsy is used to remove a tissue sample. The sample is examined for abnormal cells, disease, or infection. In a fine needle biopsy (FNB), fluid and cells are removed using a thin, hollow needle.
Reasons for Procedure
This biopsy is used to evaluate organ or tumor tissue. It is also sometimes used to find out how certain treatments are working.
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. The potential complications will depend on the location of the biopsy. Your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
- Bruise where the needle was inserted
- Pain after the procedure
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Ask your doctor if there are any instructions you should follow before the procedure. Depending on the part of the body that the biopsy is being taken from, your doctor may ask you to:
- Drink contrast material.
- Have routine blood work.
- Arrange for a ride home.
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
Local anesthesia is often used. It will make the area numb. A sedative may also be used to help you relax.
Description of the Procedure
You will be positioned for the easiest access to the area for biopsy. The skin will be swabbed with a cleaning solution. Anesthesia will be applied to numb the area. You will be asked to stay still. A thin, hollow needle will then be inserted through the skin to the site. The needle may need to be inserted more than once. Once the needle is in the proper position, tissue or fluid will be withdrawn. You may feel a pinch, pressure, or nothing at all. You may be monitored for bleeding or other complications. The site will be bandaged.
How Long Will It Take?
- Simple biopsy (site is close to surface of skin): a few minutes (in most cases)
- Deeper biopsy or one that is guided by an ultrasound or CT scan: 30-90 minutes
Will It Hurt?
The amount of discomfort you feel depends on the part of the body that is being examined. The anesthesia and sedative will prevent pain. You may feel a pinch or pressure. If you feel pain, tell the doctor right away. After the procedure, the site will be tender.
Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions. In general, you should check the insertion site and keep it clean.
The sample will be examined by a specialist. The results are usually ready in a few days. Your doctor will talk to you about the results.
Call Your Doctor
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Pain, redness, swelling, heat, discharge, or a red streak in the area of the needle insertion
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- New symptoms develop
American Family Physician
National Institutes of Health
BC Cancer Agency
Canadian Cancer Society
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Fine needle aspiration. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.aaohns.org. Accessed October 23, 2007.
Fine needle aspiration. American Family Physician website. Available at: http://www.aafp.org. Accessed October 23, 2007.
Preparing for a needle aspiration biopsy. National Institutes of Health (NIH) website. Available at: http://www.cc.nih.gov/ccc/patient_education/pepubs/needle.html. Accessed October 23, 2007.
Zaret BL, Jatlow PI, Katz LD. The Yale University School of Medicine Patient’s Guide to Medical Tests. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company; 1997.
Last reviewed November 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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