Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA)

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed: September 14, 2018

What is a fine needle aspiration?

A fine needle aspiration (FNA) is a medical test to remove a piece of tissue from a lesion or mass. The tissue is then tested to find out what it is. It is a minimally invasive test, well tolerated and can be quickly done. 

FNA can be used for almost any part of the body. Common locations include: 

  • Thyroid
  • Lymph nodes in the neck or other areas of the body 
  • Lung lesions
  • Liver abnormalities 
  • Pancreas 
  • Breast

How do I prepare for a fine needle aspiration?

Usually there is no need to prepare for this test. However, if you are on blood thinners, you may need to stop them several days in before the test.

How is this test performed?

Local anesthesia, such as lidocaine, will be used to numb the area. Once the area is numb, a thin needle (one that is even smaller that the type used to draw blood) will be put into the mass or lesion. It may be placed into the mass or lesion several times to make sure enough tissue is removed to be tested. The actual insertion of the needle takes about 10-15 seconds. The entire biopsy takes about 15-30 minutes

If your provider is unable to see or feel the lesion or mass, then an ultrasound, x-ray, or CT scan can be used to find the right area to be biopsied. 

What to expect after your fine needle aspiration?

As the numbing medication wears off you may have some discomfort and you may have minimal bleeding at the site of the aspiration.

The main risk of an FNA is bleeding. Often there is no bleeding. But in some cases, a pocket of blood, or a hematoma, will collect at the site of the biopsy. This can be slightly uncomfortable but should resolve over the next few days. If there is severe pain following the procedure, you should contact your provider right away.

How do you receive the results of your fine needle aspiration?

The tissue sample is reviewed by a pathologist and a report is written. The pathology report provides information about the patient and the reason for the test. The report will likely detail both normal and abnormal findings. Your provider will be able to discuss your results with you. 

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