During a thyroid biopsy, a small tissue sample is taken from the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that helps regulate the body's metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure and temperature.
If a lump is detected after a thyroid sonogram, a doctor may choose to perform a biopsy to determine whether the nodule is malignant. A biopsy may also be recommended if the thyroid gland is enlarged without explanation.
The Thyroid Biopsy Procedure
Usually no special preparations are needed before the thyroid biopsy procedure, but patients should alert their doctors to whatever medications they use, especially blood thinning agents.
When the procedure begins, the neck will be cleaned and a local anesthetic may be administered to the patient to numb the biopsy site. Ultrasound imaging guidance may be used to help place the needle accurately, in which case a clear gel will be applied to the site and an ultrasound transducer, a small hand-held device, will be placed over the neck. The radiologist will insert the needle and use it to remove a small tissue sample.
The biopsy procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes and is an outpatient procedure. The tissue sample is sent to a lab so it can be tested to determine whether the lump is benign or cancerous. The results will be analyzed, and then sent to the referring physician to later be discussed with the patient.