Fine-Needle Aspiration Biopsy of the Thyroid (cont.)
Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)
Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C) is an Attending Physician with the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and Associate Director of Clinical Research, Recruitment and Phenotyping with the Center for Androgen Related Disorders, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Fine needle aspiration biopsy facts
- What are thyroid nodules?
- What is the initial assessment of a thyroid nodule?
- Fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) of the thyroid gland; why is it done?
- Should fine needle aspiration biopsy be done on all thyroid nodules?
- How is fine needle aspiration biopsy performed?
- What are the complications of fine needle aspiration biopsy of the thyroid?
- What happens to the thyroid tissue obtained at the fine needle aspiration biopsy?
What are the complications of fine needle aspiration biopsy of the thyroid?
Most patients notice very little bleeding or swelling. There may be some discomfort in the area for a few hours after the biopsy, which is usually relieved with acetaminophen (Tylenol). Some patients like to put an ice pack over the area when they get home, but most do well without such measures. The risks of fine needle aspiration biopsy of the thyroid include bleeding, infection, and cyst formation, but these complications are exceedingly rare. Patients should contact their doctor if they notice any excessive bruising or swelling in the area of the biopsy, if they have persistent pain in the area, or if they develop a fever.
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What happens to the thyroid tissue obtained at the fine needle aspiration biopsy?
After the procedure, the tissue obtained is prepared onto glass slides and sent to the pathologist for evaluation. First, the pathologist determines whether or not enough thyroid tissue has been obtained for analysis. (When there is an insufficient amount, a repeat fine needle aspiration biopsy is necessary.) After analysis, the tissue is classified. Although the classifications used by pathologists vary, the tissue is usually reported as (1) benign; (2) malignant; (3) suspicious; or (4) indeterminate. The chance of a false negative test (a test report that is negative when cancer is actually present) varies from 0-5%, depending on where the test is performed. The chance of a false positive (a test report showing cancer when there is no cancer present) is less than 5% and is usually due to the presence of degenerating cells or atypical cells. These results are reported back to the doctor's office, usually within one week. At this point, the doctor discusses the implications of the report and outlines further treatment, if needed based on the results.
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