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Laboratory Services

Fine Needle Aspiration

Safe, Simple, Accurate

Your doctor has ordered a diagnostic procedure for you called Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA).  This procedure will provide your doctor with a fast and accurate diagnosis that will help in determining the need for further tests or treatment. Fine Needle Aspiration is safe, simple and accurate. The following information will provide you with answers to the most commonly asked questions and concerns about Fine Needle Aspiration.

What is Fine Needle Aspiration? Why do I need it?

During your medical exam, your doctor has discovered a lump or growth about which there is some question. The next step is to determine if there are any problems associated with this tissue or growth. This requires tissue sampling for diagnosis and that's where fine needle aspiration will help. With Fine Needle Aspiration, a thin needle is used to collect a small quantity of cells or fluid to be analyzed under a microscope. Most patients tolerate the procedure well and usually do not require anesthesia or pre-medication.

How long does the procedure take?

The procedure itself only takes approximately 30 minutes. However, you will need to arrive at the Hospital's Pathology Department in the 1701 building approximately 15 minutes before your appointment. Also, the physician performing your Fine Needle Aspiration will talk with you prior to the procedure to ask questions concerning your medical history and to further explain Fine Needle Aspiration.

Who will perform my Fine Needle Aspiration?

A board-certified pathologist experienced in the performance of FNA will perform your Fine Needle Aspiration.

What should I do to prepare for Fine Needle Aspiration?

There are no restrictions on eating or drinking prior to the procedure. Your normal activities and routine should not be interrupted after the procedure.

Could there be any complications with Fine Needle Aspiration?

Fine Need Aspiration of tissue or a growth that can be felt from the skin surface is an extremely safe procedure with virtually no adverse complications. No anesthesia or pre-medication is required, thus eliminating potential allergic reactions. And since no incision is usually made, you will not develop a scar. 

During the procedure, the skin is pierced with the needle, which on rare occasions may cause a bruise or hematoma (bump) which is due to bleeding underneath the skin. If this is the case, this area may be discolored and sensitive, but should return to normal within several days.

Another very small possibility is that of infection. This is extremely unlikely because the skin is cleaned thoroughly with alcohol prior to the procedure and only sterile, disposable needles are used. 

If you are having a Fine Needle Aspiration procedure performed on a salivary gland, you may have a small amount of blood appear in your saliva after the procedure.

Are there alternatives to Fine Needle Aspiration?

Yes, surgery is usually the alternative to Fine Needle Aspiration, but surgery has a greater risk and usually is more expensive.  Fine Needle Aspiration is a good first step for rapid diagnosis.

When will I know the results of the procedure?

The results of Fine Needle Aspiration are usually available 24 to 48 hours following the procedure. Your test results will be sent to your doctor who ordered the test for you.  Your should contact your doctor in order to obtain the results.

Patient Instructions for Fine Needle Aspiration

Please arrive at Virginia Hospital Center Pathology Department Lobby level at 1701 N. George Mason Drive Arlington, Virginia approximately 15 minutes prior to your appointment time. The results of the Fine Needle Aspiration will be forwarded to the doctor who ordered the test.  Please make arrangements with your doctor's office to obtain the results.

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1701 N. George Mason Drive | Arlington, VA 22205-3698 | tel 703.558.5000
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