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Thyroid Biopsy

How It Feels

Needle biopsy

You may find it uncomfortable to lie still with your head tipped backward.

During a needle biopsy, you may feel a quick sting or pinch in your neck.

The biopsy site may be sore and tender for 1 to 2 days. You can take nonprescription pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, for the discomfort.

Open biopsy

You will be asleep and feel nothing during the biopsy. After the biopsy, you may have some nausea and general muscle aches and may feel tired for 1 to 2 days. You also may have a sore throat and sound hoarse. Suck on throat lozenges or gargle with warm salt water to help your sore throat.

The biopsy site may be sore and tender for 3 to 4 days. Your doctor will give you pain medicine for this.

After a thyroid biopsy, you may be more comfortable if you keep your head up on a pillow when you lie down. Support the back of your head and neck with both hands when you sit up to prevent discomfort at the biopsy site.

Risks

There is a small chance of problems from a thyroid biopsy, such as infection and bleeding.

Ongoing bleeding can be a problem for people with bleeding disorders. Aspirin, warfarin (such as Coumadin), and other blood-thinning medicines can make bleeding more likely. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on when to call him or her with problems.

After the test

Call your doctor immediately if you have:

  • A lot of bleeding through the bandage.
  • A hard time swallowing.
  • Signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, redness, or warmth around the biopsy site.
    • Red streaks spreading from the biopsy site.
    • Drainage of pus from the biopsy site.
    • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
    • Fever.

Results

A thyroid biopsy is a procedure in which a small sample of tissue is removed from the thyroid gland and looked at under a microscope for cancer, infection, or other thyroid problems. Results from a thyroid biopsy are usually available in a few days.

Thyroid biopsy
Normal:

The biopsy shows normal thyroid tissue.

Abnormal:

The biopsy sample shows thyroid disease (such as inflammation of the thyroid gland), thyroid cancer, or a noncancerous (benign) tumor.

A thyroid cyst is found at the time of a biopsy. Most cysts of the thyroid gland are not cancerous.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • If you have bleeding problems or take blood thinners. People with these conditions will get specific instructions from the doctor before the biopsy.
  • If you can't lie still during a needle biopsy. You may need general anesthesia for the biopsy.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 31, 2011
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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