Common Questions About Thyroid FNA Analysis

The butterfly shaped gland located at the bottom of the neck called the thyroid is one of the most important parts of the endocrine system. If someone found a lump or other abnormality there, it can be one of several reasons for Southwest Diagnostic Imaging Center to order a fine needle aspiration (FNA) test.

Our Thyroid Gland Plays an Important Role

The thyroid produces, stores, and releases hormones into our bloodstream. It sits just below our so-called “adam’s apple,” and significantly contributes to controlling our breathing, heart rate, weight, nervous system, menstrual cycle, body temperature, and much more.

Thyroid gland cancer awareness: Microscopic image of papillary thyroid carcinoma, follicular variant, showing optically clear ("orphan Annie eyes") nuclei, including nuclear grooves.

What Is an FNA?

FNA is a test where a tiny needle is inserted into the thyroid gland to aspirate or draw out a very small amount of tissue to be studied. It is usually considered as a less invasive type of biopsy.

Why Do I Need an FNA?

It’s possible that you or your physician have discovered a lump on the thyroid, known as a nodule. Sometimes you can see this growth on your neck, and it may be swollen. It’s also possible that additional nodules were discovered during a previous ultrasound or other imaging test. Southwest Diagnostic Imaging Center will need to determine that the nodule(s) are not cancerous by examining some of the tissue inside.

What Will the FNA Analysis Show?

Although nodules on the thyroid are quite common, and up to 50% of adults have them, it is less common for one to be sizable enough to be felt. Nodules are usually nothing to be concerned about, as many are due to an iodine deficiency in the body. This iron deficiency can cause the thyroid to grow larger, which is known as a goitre.

A more serious possibility is that the nodule may contain cancer cells. The good news is that finding and treating this type of cancer early often leads to an excellent outcome.

Will the FNA Procedure Hurt?

A fine needle aspiration is not painful. Patients will be given a local anesthetic on the neck to ensure that the area is completely numb before the needle is inserted.

The procedure is performed by a special doctor known as a radiologist, who uses ultrasound imaging technology to guide the thin needle into the nodule. At this point, the needle is moved gently back and forth to acquire sufficient tissue for analysis. Sometimes there may not be quite enough tissue collected, and the needle will need to be re-inserted.

If there are additional nodules present, the procedure will be repeated. The procedure takes approximately 30 minutes. An ice pack will be applied to the neck afterward to prevent swelling or bleeding.

You will not get the results from your FNA that same day, but should receive more information from Southwest Diagnostic Imaging Center several days afterward.

What Are the Risks of a Thyroid FNA?

FNA is a less invasive and very low-risk procedure, so there are little if any complications. About 20% of the time a patient may be given an uncertain diagnosis that will require further testing of the thyroid and its questionable tissue. In addition, there can be a small amount of bleeding at the site where the needle was inserted. This area may be a bit sensitive and tender to the touch, but OTC pain medications usually help to reduce any discomfort or swelling that may be noticed in the first couple of hours after an FNA.

Contact Southwest Diagnostic Imaging Center with any other questions or concerns about an upcoming thyroid FNA analysis.

As always, if you have any further questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call (214) 345-6905 or request an appointment online today!