Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy Service

The Fine needle aspiration Biopsy (FNAB) Clinic run by physicians of the Cytopathology Laboratory in the Department of Pathology of MGH accepts patients by advance appointment or by same day request, space available. All appointments must be made by a referring physician and patients must be registered with an MGH medical record number. The MGH FNAB Service offers expert services by physicians called cytopathologists, who are trained in performing the procedure and interpreting the results immediately following the biopsy. We have the ability to use ultrasound imaging to biopsy masses not easily felt by physical exam. We offer local anesthesia for the procedure.

FNAB is a safe, minimally invasive type of biopsy that uses a very small needle to remove cells from a lump. These cells are evaluated under a microscope to determine the cause of the lump. Benign growths, cancers and infections can be diagnosed using this biopsy technique.

Common sites biopsied by FNAB include the thyroid, neck, breast, lymph nodes and subcutaneous nodules.

Representative slides made from the biopsy are looked at right away under a microscope to make sure cells are being obtained. A preliminary diagnosis is provided at the time of the biopsy offering rapid triage and coordination of patient care. Another cytopathologist who did not perform the biopsy issues a formal diagnostic report usually within 48-72 hours. Having two cytopathologists interpret the aspirate is part of our quality assurance program. If special studies are needed such as flow cytometry, immunohistochemical stains or genetic testing, a few additional days may be required. The final report is sent to the doctor who requested the biopsy.

The biopsy procedure itself typically takes about 15 minutes. Biopsies that require ultrasound imaging may take longer. Please allow 45-60 minutes for the visit from start to finish. Most patients find FNAB to be a straightforward and rapid procedure, with similarities to a blood draw.


  •  Martha B Pitman, MD - Director, Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy Service
  •  Amy Ly, MD
  • William (Bill) C. Faquin, MD, PhD
  • Ivan Chebib, MD
  • Vanda Torous, MD
  • Emilio Madrigal, DO
  • M. Lisa Zhang, MD