Fine-Needle Aspiration Cytology
Fine-Needle Aspiration Cytology (FNAC), is a diagnostic procedure used to investigate superficial (just under the skin) lumps or masses. In this technique, a thin, hollow needle is inserted into the mass for sampling of cells that, after being stained, will be examined under a microscope. There could be cytology exam of aspirate (cell specimen evaluation, FNAC) or histological (biopsy – tissue specimen evaluation, FNAB). Fine-needle aspiration biopsies are very safe, minor surgical procedures. Often, a major surgical (excisional or open) biopsy can be avoided by performing a needle aspiration biopsy instead. In 1981, the first fine-needle aspiration biopsy in the United States was done at Maimonides Medical Center, eliminating the need for surgery and hospitalization. Today, this procedure is widely used in the diagnosis of cancer and inflammatory conditions.
A needle aspiration biopsy is safer and less traumatic than an open surgical biopsy, and significant complications are usually rare, depending on the body site. Common complications include bruising and soreness. There is a risk, because the biopsy is very small (only a few cells), that the problematic cells will be missed, resulting in a false negative result. There is also a risk that the cells taken will not enable a definitive diagnosis.