Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA)

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed:

What is a fine needle aspiration?

A fine needle aspiration (FNA) is a medical test that uses a thin needle to remove a piece of tissue from a lesion or tumor. The tissue is then tested to find out what it is (called a biopsy). It is a minimally invasive test, using only a few pokes into the skin with the needle. There is no incision, or cut in the skin. It is often well tolerated and can be done quickly. 

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

  • 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?

There is often nothing you need to do to prepare for this test. However, if you are on blood thinners, ask your provider if you should stop taking them a few days before the test. 

How is this test done?

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 FNA 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 can I expect after my fine needle aspiration?

As the numbing medication wears off, you may have some discomfort.

The main risk of an FNA is bleeding. A little bleeding where the needle went in is normal. But in some cases, a pocket of blood, called a hematoma, will collect at the site of the biopsy. This can be slightly uncomfortable but should get better over the next few days. If there is severe pain following the procedure, you should call your provider right away.

How do I receive the results of my fine needle aspiration?

The tissue sample is reviewed under a microscope by a doctor called a pathologist, and a report is written. The pathology report gives 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. 

References

American Cancer Society. (2017). Biopsy of the breast: Breast aspiration. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/breast-biopsy/fine-needle-aspiration-biopsy-of-the-breast.html 

Wu, M., Burnstein, D.E. (2004). Fine needle aspiration. Cancer Invest.,22(4), 620-628. DOI: 10.1081/cnv-200027160 

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