How to perform fine needle aspirates

02 June 2014
7 mins read
Volume 5 · Issue 5


Fine needle aspirates (commonly referred to as FNAs) are common diagnostic tools performed to obtain cytological information that could help aid in diagnosing veterinary patients. They can be performed on external or internal masses, or lymph nodes. Since veterinary nurses can perform FNAs on external masses and lymph nodes, it important for them to understand how to perform them correctly so a diagnostic sample can be obtained. This article will focus on two different methods of performing FNAs, and how to prepare the sample on microscope slides that will be used to obtain cellular information.

Fine needle aspirates (commonly referred to as FNAs) are diagnostic techniques used to help aid in the diagnosis of a veterinary patient. While they rarely provide a definitive diagnosis, they can provide fluid or cytologic information from both external and internal masses, and/or lymph nodes (Jaffe, 2006). External masses can include lesions in the epidermal, dermal, subcutaneous, and muscle layers, including lymph nodes (i.e. pre-scapular, submandibular, popliteal lymph nodes). Internal masses would include intra-cavitary lesions in the abdomen or thorax, including lymph nodes. This cytological information or fluid analysis can help direct further diagnostics and possible therapeutic plans.

FNAs on internal masses and lymph nodes can be performed safely with the aid of ultrasound machine guidance (Mauldin and Mauldin, 2006) and a certified veterinary radiologist to perform the FNA. Patients that need internal lesions aspirated generally are sedated or are under general anaesthesia to prevent movement during the procedure. While intra-cavitary FNAs require specialised equipment and training, FNAs on external masses and lymph nodes can be performed on a conscious patient by a veterinary nurse or doctor of veterinary medicine.

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