Fine-Needle Thyroid Biopsy: Before Your Procedure

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What is a needle thyroid biopsy?

Thyroid gland
During a thyroid biopsy, 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.

The 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.

You may be given medicine to help you relax. 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. In this surgery, the doctor takes a tissue sample through a cut (incision) in the skin.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before 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.

You do not need to do anything before your biopsy. You will be awake during the biopsy.

Preparing for the procedure

  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your procedure. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before the procedure. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. Bring a copy to the hospital. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. 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 or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The procedure will take about 5 to 10 minutes.

Going home

  • You may need to stay in the hospital overnight.
  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your procedure. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.

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?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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