When Do You Need an Ultrasound-Guided Thyroid Biopsy?
Ultrasound uses a small hand-held transducer (wand) that emits sound waves to display images of the thyroid gland. The technologist and specialized radiologist use these images to interpret the findings. During a thyroid ultrasound, we examine:
- The size of the thyroid gland
- The thyroid gland’s texture
- Nearby lymph nodes
- Any nodules
- The vessels of the thyroid gland
Radiologists use thyroid ultrasound to check any physiologic change in your clinical examination. A thyroid gland with excess vascularity can indicate hyperthyroidism, while low vascularity to the thyroid can be seen with hypothyroidism. Radiologists may also order an ultrasound if you have symptoms such as difficulty swallowing or hoarseness. Ultrasound may not be needed if you have a normal-sized gland.
What to Expect With an Ultrasound-Guided Thyroid Biopsy
- The technologist uses an ultrasound transducer or probe to localize the thyroid nodule.
- The radiologist will then use a fine needle (smaller than you have probably seen before) to take the sample. The procedure is sometimes called a Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) or a Fine Needle Biopsy (FNB). The radiologist directs the fine needle under ultrasound guidance to the nodule.
- Using ultrasound guidance, the radiologist performs several passes with the fine needle to gather cells for further analysis. The radiologist will watch the entire procedure in real-time as they are performing the procedure, which ensures that the targeting and sampling are precise.
- We prepare the cells on slides in preservative solutions for additional evaluation by the pathologist. We place a small amount of the sample in an extra collection tune in case the pathologist needs to perform additional testing. The pathologist or cytologist is a medical specialist who studies the structure and function of cells and analyzes the cells. Cytologists look at the cells under the microscope to determine if they are normal (benign), atypical, or look suspicious. Sometimes, the specialist needs more information. The specialist will test the extra cells tube for the cells' genetic makeup. This secondary process is slower and may take seven to ten days to return.
We recommend not taking blood thinners such as Aspirin or Motrin as they can increase bruising. We will provide you with Tylenol and a small portable ice pack to apply to the fine needle aspiration/biopsy site if needed. Complications from a Fine Needle Aspiration/ Biopsy of the Thyroid are rare. If you experience any bleeding, increased swelling, or sudden change of voice, please call us or seek medical attention.
The results of the Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy of the Thyroid are usually available within two working days. The results may take longer in some cases if the pathologist needs more time for testing. The time required to complete the evaluation is unrelated to the final result. We allow the time necessary for the pathologist to make an accurate diagnosis. The results usually return as benign (normal). Sometimes the findings return as suspicious for malignancy (cancer). Occasionally, the thyroid biopsy results may be atypical. If the results prove to be atypical or malignant, then your doctor will advise a consultation with a specialist in thyroid surgery. The surgeon may recommend removing part of the thyroid gland or observation.
We request a thyroid ultrasound follow-up within six months from the procedure date. The follow-up ensures the stability of the finding that we biopsied, even for a benign result. Your care team at The Women’s Imaging Center ensures the continuity of screening to diagnosis to treatment when indicated. The care team and navigator coordinate your care with other specialists based on the recommendation of your referring clinician and within the continuity of care following the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines.
Ultrasound-Guided Thyroid Biopsy in Denver
Meet Our Specialists
Kelly McAleese, M.D.
Timothy Colt, M.D.
Barbara Jaegar, M.D.
John Lewin, M.D.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ultrasound-Guided Thyroid Biopsy
Ultrasound-guided thyroid biopsy is a medical procedure that involves using ultrasound imaging to guide the insertion of a needle into the thyroid gland to obtain a tissue sample for examination.
During the procedure, the patient lies on their back. The skin over the thyroid gland is cleaned and a local anesthetic is injected to numb the area. The ultrasound probe is then placed on the neck to locate the nodule or abnormality to be biopsied. A thin needle is inserted through the skin and into the nodule, guided by the real-time ultrasound image on a screen. Once the needle is in the correct position, several samples of tissue are collected and sent to a laboratory for analysis.
Thyroid nodules are common, and most are benign. However, a small percentage of nodules may be cancerous, and it is important to evaluate them to determine the appropriate treatment.
Ultrasound-guided biopsy is a safe and effective way to diagnose thyroid cancer. The procedure is minimally invasive and can be performed in an outpatient setting. It typically takes less than 30 minutes to complete and has a low risk of complications.
If you have a suspicious thyroid nodule, your doctor may recommend an ultrasound-guided biopsy to determine whether it is cancerous. The biopsy results can help your doctor determine the best course of treatment for you.