Why You Might Need A Fine Needle Aspiration Procedure

fine needle aspirationOne of the more recent procedures we’ve added to our list of services is a fine needle aspiration procedure. We’ll go over what it is, why your doctor may determine you need it, and what to expect if you have to have one. We know you’re on pins and needles to learn more, so let’s dive right in.

What is a Fine Needle Aspiration Procedure?

Fine needle aspiration (FNA) is a less invasive biopsy technique involving the passing of a thin needle through the skin to collect a sample of tissue or fluid from a cyst or solid mass. This sample is then used to diagnose and/or rule out various medical conditions such as infections, diseases, and cancer. Though an MRI or an X-ray can reveal suspicious places in the body, they can’t be used to determine if you have cancerous cells or not. By using an FNA biopsy, cancer cells can be diagnosed in a much less invasive way than a surgical or excisional biopsy.

Why Your Doctor Might Recommend a Fine Needle Aspiration Procedure

The most common time an FNA procedure is recommended is when lumps or swelling are detected during a doctor’s examination. Another time is when they’re found by way of diagnostic imaging tests such as ultrasounds, mammograms, and CT scans. For example, if during a diagnostic test your technician observes the presence of abnormal masses or nodules, enlarged lymph nodes, or cysts, an FNA procedure may be suggested.

What Areas of the Body Can An FNA Be Performed On?

Fine needle aspiration procedures can be used to sample cells from the mouth, neck, lymph nodes, respiratory tract, breast, liver and thyroid gland. However, the most common places for FNAs are the breasts, thyroid gland, and lymph nodes in the inguinal area (groin), neck, or axilla (armpits).

What To Expect During A Fine Needle Aspiration Procedure

Preparing for the procedure:

As every case is different, ask your doctor for their recommendations on how to prepare for your FNA.  For some patients, preparations for the procedure might include discontinuing use of aspirin, aspirin substitutes, or ibuprofen a week prior to the procedure, and not eating or drinking anything for a specified time for the procedure begins.

In some cases, an ultrasound or CT scan may need to be done as well. If this happens, you may also be given a contrast agent to help your technician complete the procedure. Depending on your symptoms and a variety of factors, your pre-procedure prep may also involve routine blood work, discontinued use of blood thinners, and the prescribing of antibiotics.

What happens during the procedure:

The fine needle aspiration procedure is usually performed by a Radiologist, a doctor with special training in performing and interpreting x-ray procedures and in performing biopsies using x-ray guidance. Right before your procedure, the skin over the area where the FNA will be done will be cleaned with antiseptic. In many cases, a numbing agent or topical anesthetic will be administered to the site where the FNA will be performed. In others, the patient will be sedated during the procedure.

The FNA itself does not take much time – typically just 10 to 20 minutes. The doctor simply inserts a very thin needle into the area being biopsied and removes cells or other materials from the cyst, mass, or tumor in your body.

Will the FNA hurt?

For most patients, the FNA procedure is painless. In fact, many patients have stated the needle to administer a numbing agent hurts more than the FNA does. After the procedure, you may have some swelling and soreness at the area where the sample was taken, but it should not be severe. Your doctor may recommend acetaminophen to help with any discomfort.

If you have extreme pain, bleeding or other complications after the procedure, tell your doctor at once. In very rare cases, some patients may feel faint or lightheaded or have progressive swelling at the biopsy site. Again, if anything seems out of the ordinary, call your doctor.

When can you expect your test results?

Upon removal of the sample, it may be examined right away to ensure a good sample was taken. Your doctor might be able to give you an immediate diagnosis on the same day of your procedure. In most instances, the sample might need to be sent to a lab so it can be tested further. Though a preliminary diagnosis may be available quickly, if your sample needs further testing, it could take a week or longer to get your results.

The benefits of an FNA are that they produce results faster than surgical and excisional biopsies. They are also considered an outpatient procedure with little recuperation, so it shouldn’t significantly impact your schedule. Unlike a surgical biopsy, there is little to no risk of a scar from the procedure as well.

To learn more about GO Imaging’s facilities and why you should choose us for your diagnostic imaging and testing, click here.

Posted in: Radiology

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