Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Guide for Physicians

Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) Biopsy of Superficial Palpable Masses by Pathologists*

This service may provide useful information in determining the nature of your patient's lump, and what further treatment, if any, is warranted.

FNA provides the following advantages to your patient:

  • Rapid availability of results
  • Extremely low complication rate
  • Reduced cost to patients
  • An alternative to surgical removal in select cases
  • Help in planning the clinical management of new lumps in the cancer patient

This guide has been prepared to help you understand more about this procedure. If you have any additional questions, please call the scheduling office at 713-441-1447.

How the Biopsy is Performed

FNA is a technique in which a lump can be biopsied with a fine needle. We have limited our practice to palpable lumps (including thyroid nodules, salivary glands, breast, lymph nodes, soft tissues, and other masses). Deep lesions requiring radiologic localization are performed by the Radiology Department at Houston Methodist Hospital.

This simple procedure takes only about 20 minutes. The total time the patient spends in our clinic is about 45 minutes. The procedure can also be performed at bedside for inpatients. A 21-25 gauge needle is inserted into the mass. There is very little discomfort involved. About three passes may be required to obtain enough material for a diagnosis.

The procedure will be performed by a Houston Methodist Hospital board-certified pathologist who has special expertise in cytopathology. After the lump has been biopsied, a portion of the biopsy may be analyzed while the patient waits to ensure that enough material has been obtained. A repeat biopsy will be performed if necessary. The patient will be able to drive, return to work, and resume normal activities after the biopsy.

Results of the Biopsy

Your office will be contacted with the results of the biopsy, often within several hours of the procedure, or you may call our laboratory at 713-441-1296. Your patient will be instructed to call your office on the following day for the results and he/she will be informed that any decision on treatment rests with you, the primary physician.

Sometimes a specific diagnosis cannot be made from this technique and an open biopsy may be recommended. You can then help your patient decide what else is to be done to evaluate the lump. In the event we do not obtain enough material to render a diagnosis, the procedure may be repeated at the next available opportunity at no additional charge to the patient.

Arrangements for the Biopsy

For same-day scheduling call 713-441-1447. There are six time slots (30 minute intervals) available for the procedure starting at 10:00 am until 2:30 pm, Monday through Friday.

You or your patient may pre-schedule an appointment for the procedure up to 24 hours before by calling Centralized Scheduling at 713-441-6550 or faxing a Physician Order for the procedure 713-394-6010. The FNA site, biopsy description, brief history, and main clinical findings are very helpful and may be written on the Physician Order. No same-day scheduling through Centralized Scheduling will be accepted.


The FNA clinic is located on the 17th floor of Houston Methodist Outpatient Center, 6445 Main Street, Houston, Texas, across the street from Houston Methodist Hospital.

No preparation is necessary for the biopsy. Patients may eat or take any of their normal medications. Please indicate if patient is on anticoagulants.

Insurance and Billing

The procedure is covered by most forms of insurance. It is not necessary for the patient to pay for services at the time of the biopsy. If they bring all the information concerning their medical insurance, we will be happy to submit the claim for them.

The patient must register at Houston Methodist Hospital outpatient registration area, on the 2nd floor of the Outpatient Center across from the elevators. Patients may also register by phone at 713-394-6805. The patient will receive a separate bill for professional services from Houston Methodist Pathology and for technical processing from Houston Methodist Hospital. Please call our office at 713-441-1277 if you or your patient have any questions about our fees.

*Not radiographically directed