The Division of Cytopathology

Patient Referral

Patient Referral for Fine Needle Aspiration

Fine needle aspiration (FNA) is a biopsy technique which employs a fine needle (23 gauge or finer) to obtain cells and small tissue fragments from lesions for diagnosis. Procurement and interpretation of FNA specimens requires specialized training in the pathology subspecialty of cytopathology.

The Division of Cytopathology at The Johns Hopkins Hospital operates an FNA Clinic for the evaluation of superficial, palpable lesions. Lesions commonly aspirated in our clinic include enlarged lymph nodes (cervical, supraclavicular, axillary, inguinal), palpable thyroid nodules, palpable breast masses, and salivary gland masses. Virtually any subcutaneous, palpable, discrete nodule is suitable for FNA analysis.

FNA is the procedure of choice for the initial evaluation of thyroid nodules. It is useful in the evaluation of persistently enlarged lymph nodes. FNA rapidly provides information about the nature of worrisome breast masses.

Because a portion of the FNA specimen is analyzed at the time of the aspiration, a preliminary impression can usually be provided to both the patient and the referring physician. A final diagnosis is usually available within 24 hours.