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

Needle Biopsy: Thyroid Overview

Written by FoundHealth.


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

Thyroid Nodule
Thyroid Nodule
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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:
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs (eg, aspirin )
  • Blood thinners, like clopidogrel (Plavix) or warfarin (Coumadin)
  • 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.



American Thyroid Association

Thyroid Foundation of America


Health Canada

Thyroid Foundation of Canada


Beers, MH, Fletcher AJ, Jones TV, et al. The Merck Manual of Medical Information: Second Home Edition. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories; 2003.

Ross DS. Fine needle aspiration biopsy of thyroid nodules/instructions for patients undergoing core needle biopsy. Thyroid Foundation of Canada website. Available at: . Accessed August 24, 2005.

Suen KC. Fine needle aspiration biopsy of the thyroid. Canadian Med Assoc J. 2002; 167:491-95.

Thyroid biopsy. Dr. Joseph F. Smith Medical Library website. Available at: . Accessed August 24, 2005.

Thyroid nodule. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated September 2009. Accessed September 22, 2009.

Thyroid nodule fine needle aspirate. National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus website. Available at: . Updated May 2008. Accessed September 22, 2009.

Thyroid nodules. New York Thyroid Center website. Available at: . Accessed September 22, 2009.

Thyroid nodules: symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment. American Thyroid Foundation website. Available at: . Accessed August 24, 2005.



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