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Thyroid Biopsy

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 camera.gif in the neck.
    • Fever.

Results

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. 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.

What To Think About

  • A normal (negative) report on a thyroid biopsy does not mean for sure that the thyroid gland is healthy. It is possible that a problem may have been missed. Many thyroid tumors are small, and the biopsy sample may come from an area of the thyroid that is free from disease. A fine-needle biopsy can have a false-negative result.
  • Your doctor may not be able to use a needle biopsy to find out what is causing your symptoms. An open thyroid biopsy may be needed.
  • If a thyroid nodule is found and thyroid hormone levels are normal, most doctors recommend a thyroid needle biopsy instead of a radioactive thyroid scan.
  • If a thyroid nodule is found and high thyroid levels are present, a radioactive iodine uptake (RAIU) test and a thyroid scan are generally recommended before a thyroid biopsy. Nodules that cause hyperthyroidism are generally noncancerous (benign) and can be treated with medicine or radioactive iodine. To learn more, see the topic Radioactive Iodine Uptake Test.

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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