With this type of biopsy, the doctor uses a needle to remove a small sample of tissue from the thyroid gland.

Thyroid Nodule

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Reasons for Procedure

The test is usually done when a lump, called a nodule, is found in the thyroid. Thyroid nodules are fairly common. They usually do not require treatment. However, about 5% of nodules are cancerous. The needle biopsy is usually done to see if a nodule contains benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) cells. It may also be done if the thyroid is enlarged, even if there is no nodule present.

Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a needle biopsy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Bruising where the needle was inserted
  • Pain after the procedure
  • Infection

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

In the days leading up to your procedure, you will need to:

  • Have blood tests
  • Talk to your doctor about your medical history, including:
    • Any allergies
    • Any medicines that you take—You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
  • Arrange for a ride home from the care center.


Local anesthesia is used—just the area that is being operated on is numbed. It is given as an injection. You may also be given a sedative.

Description of the Procedure

There are two types of biopsies:

  • Fine-needle aspiration (FNA)—most common
  • Coarse-needle biopsy (CNB)

You will be asked to lie on your back. A pillow will be placed under your shoulders. Your neck will be extended. The site of the biopsy will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution. For an FNA, your doctor will insert a tiny hollow needle into the nodule to collect a sample of tissue. For a CNB, your doctor will make a small cut in the skin. The needle will be inserted through the incision and into the thyroid to collect a sample. The process may need to be repeated several times. After the procedure, pressure will be applied to the biopsy site. A bandage will be applied.

How Long Will It Take?

About 10-30 minutes (plus 30 minutes in the recovery room)

Will It Hurt?

You may feel soreness at the biopsy site for 1-2 days.

Post-procedure Care

When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:

  • If you had FNA, remove the bandage within a few hours. If you had CNB, remove the bandage in a few days.
  • Avoid vigorous physical activity for 24 hours.
  • Return to normal activities.
  • Take pain medicine (eg, Tylenol) for any discomfort.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.

Call Your Doctor

After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Bleeding
  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Excessive neck swelling
  • Unusual pain or discomfort
In case of an emergency, CALL 911.