Using FNA to Screen for Lymph Node Abnormalities

Scanning with ultrasound. Research of blood vessels of a neck byFNA, also known as fine needle biopsy, is a procedure that may be used to biopsy cells in enlarged lymph nodes. A thin needle is inserted into the affected area and cells are removed for testing. FNA is often ordered following abnormal imaging results or because the patient or physician has noticed enlarged lymph nodes (swollen glands).

Lymph nodes are most commonly found in the head and neck, inguinal (groin) area, and armpits, but may occur anywhere on the body. FNA is used to identify the nature of disease within a lymph node. It may be due to infection, routine enlargement, or malignancy. When results come back benign, we may do additional to refine the diagnosis. When results come back malignant, we may perform additional testing to confirm the diagnosis.

The FNA Procedure

For the procedure, a local anesthetic numbs the area where the needle is inserted. Most patients experience nothing more than mild discomfort. Once the needle is inserted, one or more samples of cells are removed from the area. For abnormalities deep within the neck, ultrasound imaging can be used to guide the needle into the correct area. Once the samples are collected, the needle is removed and pressure is placed on the affected area. In most cases, the procedure takes no more than five minutes.

FNA Is Safe

FNA is a safe, effective method for diagnosing issues within the lymph nodes, with only slight risks for light bruising or swelling. A possible side effect can be mild discomfort with swallowing, but it is temporary and not serious. Serious complications are rare but include infection or more severe bleeding. Tell your doctor about medications you are taking prior to the procedure because some can increase your risk for bleeding.


Following a lymph node biopsy, you need only remain at the facility for the few minutes. You will be asked to limit strenuous physical activity for up to 24 hours, and you might be advised to take an over-the-counter pain reliever to lessen any discomfort. Your doctor will review signs and symptoms of serious complications and if you should encounter any, be sure to contact us immediately.

Lab Testing

The cells taken during the procedure are examined under a microscope and diagnosed as normal or abnormal. In some cases, additional testing is needed to make a more definitive diagnosis. The FNA doctor will discuss the results with you as well as your doctor.

Our team of FNA Specialists at DCL Pathology includes some of the most accomplished in the country. We have performed more than 50,000 fine needle biopsies and see patients from throughout Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky. If your doctor has ordered a lymph node biopsy or you need FNA for any other reason, contact us today.