Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Guide for Patients

Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy Service Of Superficial Palpable Masses by Pathologists (Not Radiographically Directed)

Your doctor has requested a fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy on a lump that has been found.

A lump can result from many different causes and there are a variety of ways in which a lump can be evaluated. Your doctor feels that FNA may provide useful information in determining the treatment for your lump and if it should be removed.

This guide has been prepared to help you understand more about this procedure. If you have any additional questions, we will be happy to answer them prior to the biopsy.

Advantages of FNA

  • 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

How the Biopsy is Performed

FNA is a technique in which a lump (thyroid nodule, breast mass, enlarged lymph node, etc.) can be biopsied with a very small (fine) needle.

The actual procedure takes only a few minutes. Most of the time spent in the laboratory is talking to you, examining you, and preparing the material. The needle that is used is smaller than the one used to draw blood from your arm. There is very little discomfort involved. Since the needle is so small, three or four passes may be required to obtain enough material for a diagnosis.

The procedure will be performed by Houston Methodist Hospital board-certified pathologists with special expertise in cytopathology. After your lump has been biopsied, the pathologist will look at a portion of the biopsy while you wait to see if enough material has been obtained. A repeat biopsy will be performed if necessary. You will be able to drive, return to work, and resume your normal activities after the biopsy. The time spent in the FNA suite will be about 30-45 minutes (If not pre-registered, allow at least one hour for registration and procedure).

Risks and Complications of the Procedure

One of the advantages of fine needle aspiration is that it poses no significant risk to you. Occasionally, some minor bleeding may occur under the skin which can cause some mild pain and swelling. If this happens, a cold compress over the area will usually help. In the event of any unusual discomfort or swelling, please call us or your doctor.

Some patients have worried that passage of a needle through a tumor may cause the tumor to spread. This has been studied at length by doctors at several large medical centers, and is considered to be highly unlikely. Again, this is one of the advantages of using such a small needle.

Results of the Biopsy

The results of the biopsy will be available to your doctor within 24 hours in most cases. You should call you doctor's office directly to obtain the results of the biopsy.

The accuracy of this procedure will vary depending on where your lump is located and, despite our best efforts, is not always 100% correct. As mentioned previously, FNA is only one of several methods that are used to evaluate a lump. Sometimes a specific diagnosis cannot be made from this technique. If that becomes the case, then your doctor will then help you decide what else can be done to evaluate your lump. If a repeat biopsy of the lump is recommended to obtain more material, we will repeat the biopsy at the next available opportunity at no additional charge to you.

Arrangements for the Biopsy

You or your doctor's office may call 713-441-1447 to make an appointment for the procedure or use central scheduling at 713-441-6550. Office hours are 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday. Scheduling times are from 10:00 am to 2:30 pm, Monday through Friday.


Our clinic is located on the 17th floor of Houston Methodist Outpatient Center, 6445 Main Street, Houston, Texas, across the street from Houston Methodist Hospital. Patient registration is on the 2nd floor of the Outpatient Center.

No preparation is necessary for the biopsy. You may eat your normal meals and take any of your normal medications.

Insurance and Billing

FNA is covered by most forms of health insurance. It is not necessary for you to pay for our services at the time of biopsy. If you bring all the information concerning your medical insurance, we will be happy to submit the claim for you.

Please call the business office at 713-441-1277 if you have any questions about our fees.