Health Guide

Cyst fluid cytology

What is this test?

This test uses a microscope to evaluate the cells of a fluid sample collected from a cyst. It is used to help diagnose lumps or masses as cancerous or non-cancerous. This test is used in cyst of the ovary, neck mass[1][2][3], or cyst of the thyroid gland[4][5].

Why do I need this test?

Laboratory tests may be done for many reasons. Tests are performed for routine health screenings or if a disease or toxicity is suspected. Lab tests may be used to determine if a medical condition is improving or worsening. Lab tests may also be used to measure the success or failure of a medication or treatment plan. Lab tests may be ordered for professional or legal reasons. You may need this test if you have:

  • Cyst of central nervous system
  • Cyst of ovary
  • Cyst of thyroid
  • Lump on neck

When and how often should I have this test?

When and how often laboratory tests are done may depend on many factors. The timing of laboratory tests may rely on the results or completion of other tests, procedures, or treatments. Lab tests may be performed immediately in an emergency, or tests may be delayed as a condition is treated or monitored. A test may be suggested or become necessary when certain signs or symptoms appear.

Due to changes in the way your body naturally functions through the course of a day, lab tests may need to be performed at a certain time of day. If you have prepared for a test by changing your food or fluid intake, lab tests may be timed in accordance with those changes. Timing of tests may be based on increased and decreased levels of medications, drugs or other substances in the body.

The age or gender of the person being tested may affect when and how often a lab test is required. Chronic or progressive conditions may need ongoing monitoring through the use of lab tests. Conditions that worsen and improve may also need frequent monitoring. Certain tests may be repeated to obtain a series of results, or tests may need to be repeated to confirm or disprove results. Timing and frequency of lab tests may vary if they are performed for professional or legal reasons.

If the case is highly suspicious for cancer, this test may need to be repeated[3].

How should I get ready for the test?

Written consent may be required for a fine needle aspiration biopsy. Review the consent form with the healthcare worker and ask any questions you have before signing the form. Tell the healthcare worker if you have a medical condition or are using a medication or supplement that causes excessive bleeding. You should also report if you have a history of allergic or other reactions to local anesthetics.

How is the test done?

A fine needle aspiration biopsy is used to collect fluid, or take small tissue samples from a cyst, lump or mass. First, the area over the biopsy site will be cleaned. A local anesthetic may be used to numb the area where the needle will be inserted.

A very tiny needle will be inserted into the area selected for testing. If fluid is present, it will be withdrawn from the area using a syringe. If a tissue sample is required for testing, the needle may be moved back and forth to get enough tissue. When sample collection is complete, the needle will be removed.

The healthcare worker may use an ultrasound machine during this test[4].

How will the test feel?

The amount of discomfort you feel will depend on many factors, including your sensitivity to pain. Communicate how you are feeling with the person doing the procedure. Inform the person doing the procedure if you feel that you cannot continue with the procedure.

A local anesthetic is used to minimize pain during a fine needle aspiration biopsy. Even when local anesthetic is used, you may feel discomfort or pressure as the needle is inserted and moved during the procedure. After the biopsy, the procedure site may be sore for several days.

What should I do after the test?

After a fine needle biopsy, pressure may be held to the site briefly and a small bandage will be placed over the biopsy site. Ask for instructions for when to remove the dressing and how to monitor for signs and symptoms of infection. Contact your healthcare worker if you have a fever or increased pain, and if you see increasing redness, swelling, or pus at the procedure site.

What are the risks?

Fluid/Tissue: A fine needle aspiration biopsy of tissue or fluid may be taken from several different body areas. However, this procedure is usually done on cysts, lumps, or masses. Risks of this procedure vary depending on the site where the sample is taken for this test, and include bleeding, bruising, and infection at the puncture site. If you have a medical condition, or are using a medication or supplement that causes excessive bleeding, you are at a higher risk of bleeding during or after this procedure. The person doing this procedure may need to perform it more than once. Talk to your healthcare worker if you have any concerns about the risks of a fine needle aspiration biopsy.

What are normal results for this test?

Laboratory test results may vary depending on your age, gender, health history, the method used for the test, and many other factors. If your results are different from the results suggested below, this may not mean that you have a disease. Contact your healthcare worker if you have any questions. The following is considered to be a normal result for this test:

  • Adults and Children: Negative

What follow up should I do after this test?

Ask your healthcare worker how you will be informed of the test results. You may be asked to call for results, schedule an appointment to discuss results, or notified of results by mail. Follow up care varies depending on many factors related to your test. Sometimes there is no follow up after you have been notified of test results. At other times follow up may be suggested or necessary. Some examples of follow up care include changes to medication or treatment plans, referral to a specialist, more or less frequent monitoring, and additional tests or procedures. Talk with your healthcare worker about any concerns or questions you have regarding follow up care or instructions.

Where can I get more information?

Related Companies

  • American Academy of Family Physicians -
  • American Cancer Society -


[1] Hernandez O, Zagzag D, Kelly P, et al: Cytological diagnosis of cystic brain tumors: a retrospective study of 88 cases. Diagn Cytopathol 2004; 31(4):221-228.

[2] Papathanasiou K, Giannoulis C, Dovas D, et al: Fine needle aspiration cytology of the ovary: is it reliable? . Clin Exp Obstet Gynecol 2004; 31(3):191-193.

[3] Sheahan P, Fitzgibbon J, O'Leary G, et al: Efficacy and pitfalls of fine needle aspiration in the diagnosis of neck masses. Surgeon 2004; 2(3):152-156.

[4] Bellantone R, Lombardi CP, Raffaelli M, et al: Management of cystic or predominantly cystic thyroid nodules: the role of ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration biopsy. Thyroid 2004; 14(1):43-47.

[5] Smith MD, Serpell JW, Morgan JL, et al: Fine needle aspiration in the management of benign thyroid cysts. ANZ J Surg 2003; 73(7):477-479.

Last Updated: 7/4/2018
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