Fine needle aspiration (FNA)

Specialty of Pathology

What is it?

A fine-needle aspiration (FNA) is a minimal invasive exam by which some cells are taken in order to accurately verify what kind of thyroid nodule you have. FNA is different from a biopsy - in a biopsy a whole sample of tissue is taken, not just a few cells.

What does it involve?

A FNA can be done at your local outpatient clinic – there is no need for any anaesthetic. The exam consists in taking some cells from your thyroid with a very fine needle. The only risk deriving from this procedure is that you may have a small haematoma on the area where the needle was inserted. However, this can be prevented by applying some ice before the exam.

What is it for?

This procedure aims at identifying which kind of thyroid nodule you have. It is mainly done in the case of:

  • lumps that can be felt and which appear to keep on growing
  • lumps under 10 millimetres, whose nature is not clear - any lump showing irregular margins, micro-calcification, or vascularisation
  • people who have several nodules and who are at high risk due to a family history of thyroid diseases, such as hereditary papillary thyroid carcinoma or hereditary medullary thyroid cancer (MTC)

What does it feel like during the procedure?

The only thing you will feel is a slight discomfort due to needle, just like the pinch you would feel during a normal blood test. In any case, the discomfort will be gone as soon as the procedure is finished.

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