Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) & Biopsy


This fact sheet provides information on Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) or biopsies procedures which are performed at Melbourne Radiology Clinic. Both procedures are similar and involve removing a small amount of tissue with the use of a needle. The tissue sample is then sent to pathology for interpretation by a medical specialist known as a Pathologist.

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An FNA involves inserting a thin needle into the tissue that requires sampling and then applying suction to the needle tip whilst also turning the needle tip. This removes small fragments of tissue that are then analysed. The advantage of an FNA is that it is slightly less invasive than a biopsy, however, as the tissue sampled is small, it is possible that the specimen obtained is not sufficient for a confident diagnosis to be made. The procedure may then need to be repeated or usually, it is “upgraded” to a biopsy.

A biopsy involves the use of a larger needle which removes a solid block of tissue (known as a “core”) and is therefore slightly more invasive, though usually feels no different from an FNA as adequate local anaesthesia is used in both procedures. Since a core of solid tissue is removed (unlike the FNA where fragmented cells are withdrawn), the specimen is excellent and typically is sufficient enough so that a confident and definitive diagnosis is made.



An FNA or biopsy is a safe procedure that will require the injection of local anaesthetic to numb the relevant area. Depending on the body tissue to be sampled, a CT (Computed Tomography) scanner or ultrasound unit is used to guide the radiologist (a specialist doctor) in locating the exact tissue requiring study. The procedure is conducted in a lying position and often more than one sample may be taken. Intravenous sedation or pain relief is usually not required as local anaesthesia is in most instances sufficient.

The duration of the FNA/biopsy depends upon the number of samples required and the area of the body that is undergoing the procedure of the biopsy. An FNA/biopsy of the breast, thyroid, soft tissues and muscles is scheduled or 30 minutes. A bone or spine biopsy may take longer, as these procedures are often more complex. Our reception staff will indicate the amount of time it usually takes upon booking your appointment. You will also need to allow for time to arrive to the clinic, register and also following the procedure to be observed for a short period of time after the biopsy, typically between 15-30 minutes.

Following the procedure, a dressing is usually applied which may be removed after 24 hours. Avoid strenuous exercise during this time. Expect some minimal swelling and tenderness which rarely may require some paracetamol for pain. If you experience significant pain, redness or bleeding, please contact our clinic immediately.


The results of the FNA/biopsy are dependant on the time its takes for the Pathologist to review and thoroughly test all the tissue under a microscope. Usually, the results are available within 2 to 4 days and should be discussed with your referring doctor at a follow-up appointment. Should the Pathologist wish to carry out additional special analysis to gain an accurate diagnosis, then the process may take longer.


Whilst every effort is made to keep your appointment time, the special needs of complex cases, elderly and frail patients can cause unexpected delays. Your consideration and patience in these circumstances is appreciated.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 30 March 2016 12:18 )