Operative & Non-Operative Pathology
There are many different kinds of biopsies. Nearly all of them involve using a sharp tool to remove a small amount of tissue. If the biopsy will be on the skin or other sensitive area, numbing medicine is applied first.
Here are some types of biopsies:
- Needle biopsy. Most biopsies are needle biopsies, meaning a needle is used to access the suspicious tissue.
- Tissue biopsy. A punch biopsy is the main biopsy method. It uses a circular blade to get a cylindrical sample of tissue. Some examples of in-office biopsies are oral and auricular biopsies.
A minimally invasive biopsy may be done in our office. A small injection of numbing medicine can make the procedure almost painless. More invasive biopsies may be done in a hospital or our surgery center. You would make a separate appointment for the biopsy. In most cases, sedating and pain relief medicines are given, reducing any discomfort. You likely won't be able to drive after receiving these medicines.
What Happens After the Biopsy?
After the tissue is collected and preserved, it's delivered to a pathologist. A pathologist examines the biopsy tissue under a microscope. By noting the tissue cells' type, shape, and internal activity, in most cases a pathologist can diagnose the problem. A pathology report of the surgical specimen contains a description of the gross and microscopic examination of the surgical specimen. The time it takes to get results from a biopsy can vary. Final, highly accurate conclusions on biopsies often take a week or longer. You will follow up with your doctor to discuss the biopsy results.
Fine Needle Aspiration
Fine needle aspiration is a type of biopsy procedure. In fine needle aspiration, a thin needle is inserted into an area of abnormal-appearing tissue or body fluid. As with other types of biopsies, the sample collected during fine needle aspiration can help make a diagnosis or rule out conditions such as cancer. Fine needle aspiration is generally considered a safe procedure. Complications are infrequent. A fine needle aspiration is most often done on swellings or lumps located just under the skin. A lump may be felt during a doctor's examination. Or it may be discovered on an imaging test such as:
- CT scan
Imaging tests may also discover abnormal spots deeper inside the body.
Doctors may recommend fine needle aspiration for areas such as:
- cysts (fluid-filled lumps)
- nodules or masses (solid lumps)
- enlarged lymph nodes
Without a biopsy, it's usually hard for a doctor to confirm what these abnormal areas contain. And you may not know if they are a threat to your health. The most common reason to get a fine needle aspiration is to test for cancer. Most fine needle aspirations in our office are done on these areas:
- thyroid gland
- lymph nodes in the neck
Those types of fine needle aspirations are performed through the skin.
What to Expect During Fine Needle Aspiration
Most fine needle aspirations are outpatient procedures. For people undergoing fine needle aspiration through the skin, here's what to expect:
- Your skin over the area of the procedure will be cleaned with antiseptic solution.
- The area may be injected with a numbing medication under your skin or sprayed with a numbing solution.
- A thin needle attached to a syringe will be inserted through the skin into the abnormal area.
- A vacuum inside the syringe causes body fluid or tissue to be suctioned (aspirated) into the needle and syringe.
- The fine needle aspiration itself is usually a short procedure (less than 10 minutes).
The biopsy sample will sent to a lab for further testing.
What to Expect After Fine Needle Aspiration
At the biopsy site, you may have some:
In most people, over-the-counter pain medicines are enough to decrease discomfort. Final results of testing after a fine needle aspiration can take up to a week or longer.