Thyroid Biopsy

ExitCare ImageThe thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland situated in the front of the neck. It produces hormones which affect metabolism, growth and development, and body temperature. A thyroid biopsy is a procedure in which small samples of tissue or fluid are removed from the thyroid gland or mass and examined under a microscope. This test is done to determine the cause of thyroid problems, such as infection, cancer, or other thyroid problems.

There are 2 ways to obtain samples:

  1. Fine needle biopsy. Samples are removed using a thin needle inserted through the skin and into the thyroid gland or mass.

  2. Open biopsy. Samples are removed after a cut (incision) is made through the skin.


  • Allergies.

  • Medications taken including herbs, eye drops, over-the-counter medications, and creams.

  • Use of steroids (by mouth or creams).

  • Previous problems with anesthetics or numbing medicine.

  • Possibility of pregnancy, if this applies.

  • History of blood clots (thrombophlebitis).

  • History of bleeding or blood problems.

  • Previous surgery.

  • Other health problems.


  • Bleeding from the site. The risk of bleeding is higher if you have a bleeding disorder or are taking any blood thinning medications (anticoagulants).

  • Infection.

  • Injury to structures near the thyroid gland.


This is a procedure that can be done as an outpatient. Confirm the time that you need to arrive for your procedure. Confirm whether there is a need to fast or withhold any medications. A blood sample may be done to determine your blood clotting time. Medicine may be given to help you relax (sedative).


Fine needle biopsy.

You will be awake during the procedure. You may be asked to lie on your back with your head tipped backward to extend your neck. Let your caregiver know if you cannot tolerate the positioning. An area on your neck will be cleansed. A needle is inserted through the skin of your neck. You may feel a mild discomfort during this procedure. You may be asked to avoid coughing, talking, swallowing, or making sounds during some portions of the procedure. The needle is withdrawn once tissue or fluid samples have been removed. Pressure may be applied to the neck to reduce swelling and ensure that bleeding has stopped. The samples will be sent for examination.

Open biopsy.

You will be given general anesthesia. You will be asleep during the procedure. An incision is made in your neck. A sample of thyroid tissue or the mass is removed. The tissue sample or mass will be sent for examination. The sample or mass may be examined during the biopsy. If the sample or mass contains cancer cells, some or all of the thyroid gland may be removed. The incision is closed with stitches.


Your recovery will be assessed and monitored. If there are no problems, as an outpatient, you should be able to go home shortly after the procedure.

If you had a fine needle biopsy:

  • You may have soreness at the biopsy site for 1 to 2 days.

If you had an open biopsy:

  • You may have soreness at the biopsy site for 3 to 4 days.

  • You may have a hoarse voice or sore throat for 1 to 2 days.

Obtaining the Test Results

It is your responsibility to obtain your test results. Do not assume everything is normal if you have not heard from your caregiver or the medical facility. It is important for you to follow up on all of your test results.


  • Keeping your head raised on a pillow when you are lying down may ease biopsy site discomfort.

  • Supporting the back of your head and neck with both hands as you sit up from a lying position may ease biopsy site discomfort.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

  • Throat lozenges or gargling with warm salt water may help to soothe a sore throat.


  • You have severe bleeding from the biopsy site.

  • You have difficulty swallowing.

  • You have a fever.

  • You have increased pain, swelling, redness, or warmth at the biopsy site.

  • You notice pus coming from the biopsy site.

  • You have swollen glands (lymph nodes) in your neck.