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Thyroid Biopsy

A thyroid biopsy is a procedure in which a small sample of tissue is removed from the thyroid gland camera.gif and looked at under a microscope for cancer, infection, or other thyroid problems. The thyroid gland is found in front of the windpipe (trachea), just below the voice box (larynx).

A sample of thyroid tissue can be taken by:

  • Fine-needle biopsy. Your doctor puts a thin needle through the skin and into the thyroid gland. Many thyroid specialists like to use a needle biopsy method rather than surgery.
  • Open biopsy. Your doctor makes a cut (incision) through the skin to see the thyroid gland. This method is done when other tests have not found the cause of your symptoms.
  • Core needle biopsy. Your doctor inserts a needle with a special tip and removes a sample of tissue about the size of a grain of rice.

Why It Is Done

A thyroid biopsy is done to:

  • Find the cause of a lump (nodule) found in the thyroid gland. Lumps in the thyroid gland may be found during a physical exam or seen on a thyroid ultrasound test or radioactive thyroid scan.
  • Find the cause of a goiter. Symptoms of a goiter include breathing and swallowing problems, a feeling of fullness in the neck, and weight loss.

How To Prepare

Tell your doctor if you:

  • Take any medicines regularly. Be sure your doctor knows the names and doses of all your medicines.
  • Are allergic to any medicines, including anesthetics.
  • Have had bleeding problems or take blood thinners, such as aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin, for example).

Before having a thyroid biopsy, you may need to have blood tests to see whether you have any bleeding problems or blood-clotting disorders.

To prepare for a thyroid biopsy:

  • You do not need to do anything before a needle biopsy. You will be awake during the biopsy.
  • You will get general anesthesia and be asleep during an open biopsy. Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 31, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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