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Biopsies and Fine Needle Aspiration
What is a biopsy?
A biopsy is when a sample of tissue or aspirated fluid is taken from the body and sent to pathology for testing. This is usually done under ultrasound guidance to direct the needle or biopsy gun to the target area. Common areas for biopsy include areas in the neck such as thyroid and salivary glands, breasts and other lumps found in the body.
FNA: A fine needle aspiration, also referred to as an FNA, is the preferred biopsy method when taking sample from fluid, such as a cyst. The procedure involves a small needle being guided to the target area using ultrasound and drawing a small sample of cells for testing. Local anaesthetic is sometimes not needed as the needle used is thin. Aspirations can also be used for therapeutic purposes, such as releasing a build-up of fluid.
Core Biopsies: this method is generally used to sample a solid mass. In this procedure, a needle is passed through the skin to take a sample of tissue from a mass or lump for testing. Local anaesthetic is usually given to help reduce discomfort. This is often used to further investigate breast lumps and can be guided using ultrasound or mammography.
Who performs the injection?
One of our radiologists will be performing the biopsy or FNA under image guidance. The skin is first cleaned with antiseptic solution and local anaesthetic may be applied before advancing the biopsy needle. These procedures are usually about 20 minutes long.
Why will my Doctor refer me for this procedure?
Usually a patient is referred for a biopsy or fine needle aspiration when the particular part of the body has been scanned and come back with an abnormal result. Abnormal can be classed as a lesion or mass, or considered suspicious in nature, which needs pathology to diagnose it more closely.
Patient preparation required for biopsies and FNA
You will be required to arrive early for your appointment to complete a consent form and go through the information relevant to the procedure. Blood thinning medication may need to be stopped before your biopsy. The receptionist will let you know which medication needs to be stopped and for how long. Please make sure you check with your GP or specialist BEFORE stopping any medications.
If you are feeling nervous about the procedure, sometimes it is encouraged to bring along a support person, that can sit with you and drive you to and from the appointment.
Are there any risks associated with biopsy procedures?
Some discomfort may occur, but pain and bleeding are rare, as is a haematoma at the biopsy site. Staff are well trained to handle these situations.
Biopsy samples will be sent to a pathology lab for diagnosis. These results will then be sent back to your referring doctor. Please keep in mind we are not a pathology lab and have no control over the time frame for results.