Munson Health
Needle Biopsy: Thyroid

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by Martin JJ

(Fine-Needle Aspiration: Thyroid; Skinny-Needle Biopsy: Thyroid; Coarse-Needle Biopsy: Thyroid; Core Needle Biopsy: Thyroid)


Reasons for Procedure

The needle biopsy is usually done to see if a nodule is cancer. The biopsy may also be done if there is no nodule but the thyroid is enlarged.
Thyroid Nodule
Nucleus image
© 2011 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

In the days leading up to your procedure:
  • Have blood tests
  • Talk to your doctor about your medical history, including any allergies.
  • Talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking. You may be need to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
    • Anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin )
    • Blood thinners, like warfarin (Coumadin)
    • Clopidogrel (Plavix)
  • Arrange for a ride home from the care center.


Local anesthesia is used. The area that is affected will be numb.
You may also be given a sedative to help you relax

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. 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.
In some cases, your doctor will use ultrasound to help locate the area that needs to be sampled. If ultrasound is used, the doctor will place a transducer on your neck. The transducer will send images to a screen for your doctor to view. These images will be used to locate the nodule and to guide the needle. This helps to make sure your doctor got a sample of the nodule and not the surrounding "normal" tissue.

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. Talk to your doctor about medications that may help.

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 (such as Tylenol) for any discomfort.
  • Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.


American Thyroid Association

Thyroid Foundation of America



Health Canada

Thyroid Foundation of Canada



Ross DS. Fine needle aspiration biopsy of thyroid nodules/instructions for patients undergoing core needle biopsy. Thyroid Foundation of Canada website. Available at: . Accessed December 27, 2012.

Thyroid nodules. American Thyroid Association website. Available at: . Accessed December 27, 2012.

Thyroid nodule. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated August 30, 2012. Accessed December 27, 2012.

Thyroid nodules. New York Thyroid Center website. Available at: . Accessed December 27, 2012.

Ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration biopsy of the thyroid. website. Available at: . Updated July 25, 2012. Accessed December 27, 2012.


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