A biopsy is a procedure to remove a tissue sample. In a fine needle biopsy (FNB), fluid and cells are removed with a thin, hollow needle.
This biopsy is used to evaluate organ or tumor tissue. The sample may show abnormal cells, disease, infection, or inflammation.
FNB may also be done to find out how certain treatments are working.
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. The potential complications will depend on the location of the biopsy. Your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Ask your doctor if there are any instructions you should follow before the procedure. Depending on the part of the body that the biopsy is being taken from, your doctor may ask you to:
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
Just before the test, you may be asked to drink a contrast material. This drink will make images clearer on x-rays or CT scans.
Local anesthesia is often used. It will make the area numb. A sedative may also be used to help you relax.
You will be positioned for the easiest access to the area for biopsy. The area where the needle will be inserted will be cleaned. Anesthesia will be applied to numb the area. You will be asked to stay still. A thin, hollow needle will then be inserted through the skin to the site. The needle may need to be inserted more than once. The images may be checked to make sure the needle is in the right place. After the needle is in the proper position, tissue or fluid will be withdrawn. You may feel a pinch, pressure, or nothing at all. After the sample is obtained, the needle will be removed. The site will be bandaged.
The length of procedure will depend on the site that is sampled:
The amount of discomfort you feel depends on the part of the body that is being examined. The anesthesia and sedative will prevent pain. You may feel a pinch or pressure. If you feel pain, tell the doctor right away.
After the procedure, the site will be tender. Talk to your doctor about medication to help manage discomfort.
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
Biopsy for breast cancer diagnosis: Fine needle aspiration biopsy. UCSF Health website. Available at: https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/biopsy_for_breast_cancer_diagnosis/fine_needle_aspiration_biopsy/index.html. Accessed March 26, 2018.
Fine needle aspiration biopsy. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/content/fine-needle-aspiration. Accessed March 26, 2018.
Fine needle aspiration, fluid aspiration, and/or core biopsy. National Institute of Health Patient Education website. Available at: https://www.cc.nih.gov/ccc/patient_education/procdiag/irbiopsy.pdf. Accessed March 26, 2018.
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Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.