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Antenatal Monitoring

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Fine Needle Aspiration

Diagnostic Ultrasound  ›  Fine Needle Aspiration

Fine Needle Aspiration

Fine needle aspiration (FNA) is the least invasive type of biopsy that can be performed. It involves using a thin needle inserted into a lump or cyst, to aspirate (draw out) fluid and cells to be sent to a certified laboratory for analysis.

It is a safe procedure with low risk of serious side effects, the most significant being mild local discomfort or bruising under the skin. Sterile techniques are used to reduce the risk of infections.  It can be performed with or without local anaesthetic.

The use of ultrasound to guide the needle is essential when the abnormality is not palpable (such as thyroid nodules), but also improves accuracy and sampling success for superficial palpable abnormalities.


The procedure itself is usually quick, lasting on average 5-10 minutes. The samples obtained are sent to a collaborating reputable laboratory. The results take approximately 7 working days to arrive due to the laboratory processes involved. The specialist performing the procedure will communicate the results to you and your doctor.


The most common reason to get an FNA is to exclude cancer. FNA is usually recommended by your doctor when a lump is found during clinical or ultrasound examination.

The three most common lumps that can be biopsied this way are:

  • cysts (fluid-filled lumps)

  • nodules or masses (solid lumps)

  • enlarged lymph nodes


Most fine needle aspirations are done on these areas:

  • Thyroid gland

  • Breast

  • Lymph nodes in the neck, groin, or armpit


No special preparation is required. Due to the minimally traumatic nature of the procedure, it is the safest technique in patients who have bleeding tendencies or blood thinning medication, although you should inform your doctor if you have any such conditions.

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