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Fine Needle Aspiration

General Information About Fine Needle Aspiration

Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) is a quick and usually reliable method of obtaining a tiny tissue sample of virtually any lump which can be felt. The biopsy is simple, requiring total time less than an hour, but it can sometimes eliminate alternatives such as invasive surgical biopsy or time-consuming observation.

Once either you or your health care provider feel a lump in your body, important questions arise. This lump can be the result of scar tissue from an unknown injury, a cyst, an infection, a tumor, and so on. Although many indirect tests such as x-rays and laboratory studies can be helpful, these often are not sufficient to determine what the lump is. FNA allows your doctor and you to know what is causing the lump to help in deciding upon a proper course of treatment.

If you come to visit one of your FNA physicians, he will explain the technique of FNA, ask you several questions about your lump, and then he will examine your lump by pressing on it (palpation) with his fingers to determine its size, shape and location. The lump must be palpable or the FNA cannot be performed.

The procedure is only slightly more painful and slightly more risky than having blood drawn out of a vein in your arm. In the same manner that you aren’t anesthetized before giving a blood sample, we do not use anesthetic for FNA. We use the smallest needles possible to obtain a reliable biopsy. The biopsy needle is actually smaller than needles used to draw blood. The needle, which is attached to a small syringe, is gently inserted into the skin and into your lump for a few seconds. Usually we take several samples of the lump to assure that the specimen obtained is representative of the whole lump. Most patients say afterward that the biopsy was less painful than they expected. Bleeding is usually minimal, and consists of a few drops from the needle site. A small adhesive strip will be placed over any skin puncture to protect your clothing. After the FNA, you are free to return to work, or resume any other activity you wish. Please continue to take all prescribed medications as usual since the biopsy will not affect these.

About one quarter of our patients will experience bruising or tenderness in the area of the biopsy. In our experience, this is mild, requires no specific medical attention, and disappears within a few days. Some patients note that an ice pack or mild non-aspirin medication (such as Tylenol) helps. Aspirin should be avoided. Complications such as rapid swelling, bleeding, or infection are rare. If these or any unusual symptoms occur, please call our office at 982-4545 to speak with a pathologist.

The tissue fragments obtained through the needle are spread onto glass slides and examined under a microscope by a pathologist who can render a diagnosis which helps clarify the next course of action for you and your doctor. In most cases, we phone the results of this test to your physician. We also mail a written report to your doctor’s office within 2 business days of the procedure. If you wish to know the results of your biopsy before your next scheduled appointment, contact your physician directly. He or she can best explain exactly what the test results mean for you and what, if anything, should be done next. However, if you are unable to reach your physician, please call our office at 982-4545.

Our goal is to determine the cause of your lump. In about 90% of cases, we can either determine the cause or narrow the cause to two or three likely possibilities. In about 10% of cases, the sample is too limited to make a determination of the nature of the lump. Depending on the results, your physician might recommend a repeat FNA, a surgical biopsy, or other tests to further investigate the nature of your lump. Despite our experience and the care we devote to each case, the chance of your FNA failing to find a malignancy when it is present is 3 to 5%. Thus, neither patient nor physician should take a benign diagnosis as an indication to forget your lump. If it enlarges, it is imperative that either we resample it, or it be surgically removed, as this continuing enlargement may indicate a malignant tumor.

Fine needle aspirations are performed in the Infusion Center on the lower level (Mill Street level) of the Renown Professional Center, behind the Outpatient Admitting Department. We ask patients to check in at the Outpatient Admitting Department ten to fifteen minutes prior to their scheduled appointment. The Renown Professional Center is located at 75 Pringle Way in Reno, Nevada. Click here for a street map.

As of July 2000, the charge for performance of the aspirate is $168. The charge for microscopic evaluation for specimen adequacy at the time of the procedure is $168. The charge for interpreting the tissue obtained and issuing a report is $168. If deemed necessary, the preparation of and interpretation of a paraffin cell block will add another $93 to the cost.

We accept Medicare, HHP, and many other insurances as payment in full. Arrangements for payment of your bill must be made with the Business Office prior to the procedure.