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Fine-Needle Thyroid Biopsy: Before Your Procedure

Thyroid gland

What is a needle thyroid biopsy?

During a fine-needle biopsy of the thyroid, your doctor uses a thin needle to remove a small sample of tissue from your thyroid gland. You may be having the biopsy to find what is causing a lump or growth in your thyroid.

The biopsy causes very little pain. But your doctor may need to put the needle into your thyroid more than once. This is done to be sure enough fluid and tissue is taken for the test.

Another doctor then looks at the tissue sample under a microscope for cancer, infection, or other thyroid problems.

The biopsy is done in a hospital, a clinic, or your doctor's office.

During the test, you will lie on your back with a pillow under your shoulders. Your head will be tipped backward and your neck extended. This position pushes the thyroid gland forward. This makes it easier to do the biopsy.

Your doctor may use an ultrasound to guide the placement of the needle.

It is important to lie very still during the biopsy. Do not cough, talk, or swallow when the needle is in place.

In some cases, thyroid surgery may be needed if a needle biopsy doesn't give a clear result. This would be done at a different time.

How do you prepare for the procedure?

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Medicines may make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Talk to your doctor when you have questions about what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your procedure. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • If you're told to stop eating and drinking, follow the instructions you were given. If you don't, your procedure may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital, clinic, or doctor's office

  • Bring a picture ID and your Alberta Personal Health card.
  • The procedure will take about 5 to 10 minutes.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

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