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Fine Needle Biopsy
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Fine Needle Biopsy Overview

Written by FoundHealth.


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.

Needle Biopsy
Needle Aspiration
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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

Depending on the biopsy site, an ultrasound , x-ray , or computed tomography (CT) scan may be used to help guide the needle.

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 Once the needle is in the proper position, tissue or fluid will be withdrawn.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.

Post-procedure Care

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.



American Family Physician

National Institutes of Health


BC Cancer Agency

Canadian Cancer Society


Abeloff M, et al. Clinical Oncology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier, 2004.

Cummings CW, et al. Otolayrngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby, 2005.

Fine needle aspiration. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: . Accessed October 23, 2007.

Fine needle aspiration. American Family Physician website. Available at: . Accessed October 23, 2007.

Preparing for a needle aspiration biopsy. National Institutes of Health (NIH) website. Available at: . 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.



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