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Fine Needle Aspiration

What to Expect During Fine Needle Aspiration

Most fine needle aspirations are outpatient procedures.

For people undergoing fine needle aspiration through the skin, here's what to expect:

  • Your skin over the area of the procedure will be cleaned with antiseptic solution. It will then be covered with a sterile drape or towels.
  • The area may be injected with a numbing medication under your skin.
  • Ultrasound may be used during the procedure. This will help locate the right area for fine needle aspiration.
  • A thin needle attached to a syringe will be inserted through the skin into the abnormal area.
  • A vacuum inside the syringe causes body fluid or tissue to be suctioned (aspirated) into the needle and syringe.
  • The fine needle aspiration itself is usually a short procedure (less than 10 minutes).

The biopsy sample may be examined under a microscope right away. This will let your doctor:

  • Verify that a good sample was obtained
  • Make a rapid diagnosis

Or, the biopsy sample may be sent to a lab for further testing.

People undergoing fine needle aspiration during endoscopy will have additional preparation. Most will receive sedating medications. Endoscopic procedures usually take longer than fine needle aspirations through the skin (typically up to an hour).

What to Expect After Fine Needle Aspiration

If sedating medication is used during fine needle aspiration, you may be groggy and unable to work afterward.

At the biopsy site, you may have some:

  • swelling
  • soreness
  • pain

In most people, over-the-counter pain medicines are enough to decrease discomfort. Examples include the generic drug acetaminophen. It is also sold under these brand names:

  • Actamin
  • Panadol
  • Tylenol

Final results of testing after a fine needle aspiration can take up to a week or longer. Preliminary results may be available sooner.

Complications of Fine Needle Aspiration

Serious complications after fine needle aspiration are rare. Minor bleeding under the skin at the biopsy site can occur. This can result in a tender, swollen area called a hematoma.

Infection at the biopsy site is rare, because sterile techniques and equipment are used for all fine needle aspirations.

The risk of complications from fine needle aspiration during endoscopy is slightly higher. But it is still quite low for most people.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on May 21, 2014
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