During a fine-needle aspiration biopsy of the thyroid, the patient lies down with her neck exposed, according to MedicineNet. The doctor finds the location of the nodule and cleans the area with iodine. He may inject a local anesthetic, though many doctors who do the procedure regularly do not.
The doctor inserts a fine needle into the nodule, according to MedicineNet. Some doctors also use an ultrasound transducer to help them locate the nodule, according to Mayo Clinic. The doctor asks the patient to hold her breath while tissue is withdrawn. When the procedure is over, the needle is pulled out, and pressure is applied to the area to stop the bleeding and reduce swelling. The doctor usually inserts the needle four to six times to make sure he collects enough tissue. Pressure is applied to the insertion sites for about five to 10 minutes. The entire biopsy usually takes around 20 minutes.
Most patients do not suffer severe complications from a fine-needle biopsy, according to MedicineNet. Discomfort is usually eased by over-the-counter pain medications or the application of an ice pack.
Other types of thyroid biopsies are the core-needle biopsy and the open biopsy, according to WebMD. In an open biopsy, the doctor makes an incision to expose the thyroid to collect tissue, and in a core biopsy, a needle is inserted that removes a rice-sized bit of tissue.