There are two different types of Thyroid Biopsies that your doctor may order. The most common is called a Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA), the second is called a Core Needle Biopsy (CNB).
Both are done as an outpatient and only takes a few minutes. Your doctor may order one or the other depending on what they are looking for. Thyroid biopsies are used to determine cancer as well as other problems. If you have any nodules in or around your Thyroid, your doctor may order a biopsy to check for cancer in the nodules.
Before a Thyroid Biopsy your doctor may order an ultrasound of your neck, this will help the radiologist find the nodule or part of the thyroid your doctor wants the biopsy done on. Ultrasounds are painless and are usually completed in just a few minutes.
On the day of your biopsy you will not need to do anything differently than usual. The procedure usually takes less than thirty minutes, but you will need someone to go with you and drive you home. This procedure is usually done at a Radiologists office with a local anesthetic. You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and brought into a room with an ultrasound machine. You be asked to lie on the bed with a small pillow under the back of your neck. You will have to raise your chin so that your neck is more exposed. The Radiologist will have an assistant in the room to help get supplies while doing the biopsy.
You will be given an injection of Lidocaine into the area that’s going to be biopsied, which does burn when injected but numbs the area relatively fast. An ultrasound is often used during the biopsy as a guide to help the radiologist find where to insert the needle and take the sample. During a FNA a small needle is inserted into the Thyroid or nodule and a small amount is extracted and put on glass slides so they can be examined. The needle may be inserted several times to get a large enough sample.
During a Core Needle Biopsy (CNB) a small incision about an inch long, will be made and a biopsy needle will be inserted through the incision to get a sample of the thyroid. Several samples in different areas of the thyroid may be taken through the incision. Stitches are not usually needed to close the incision as it is so small.
After the procedure, the radiologists assistant will have you lie there with a small bag of ice on your neck for a few minutes. If you are feeling good after a few minutes, and there is no excess bleeding they will apply a small bandage to the area, give you another bag of ice and you are sent home.
You can expect the area to be sore for a few days, an over the counter pain medicine like Tylenol will help. Your doctor should have the results ready for you in about a week. A small amount of bruising, swelling and tenderness are the most common side effects.