Is Core Needle Biopsy Effective for Assessment of Head and Neck Lesions?

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Ultrasonography in combination with fine needle aspiration (FNA) has served as the primary line of investigation for head and neck lesions. In the 10% to 15% of cases for which FNAs yield nondiagnostic material, the next option is often excisional biopsy under general anesthesia. In patients who are poor surgical candidates, core needle biopsy (CNB) with a larger gauge needle under ultrasound guidance has emerged as a simple, minimally invasive, and accurate method for the diagnosis of head and neck lesions, especially when conservative treatment is likely. CNB has been shown to yield a higher sensitivity and specificity compared to FNA in head and neck lesions, including malignant lymphoma. Surveys show physicians are reluctant to incorporate this diagnostic method into practice due to concerns regarding bleeding, infection, nerve injury, and tumor cell seeding. This article reviews the evidence for the safety of CNB in the diagnosis of head and neck lesions, with an emphasis on the risk of tumor cell seeding and bleeding.

Best Practice

Based on current studies, ultrasound guided CNB is a minimally invasive and accurate diagnostic option for the assessment of head and neck lesions, including lymphoma. In comparison to FNA, CNB has achieved a higher accuracy in providing specific diagnoses, detecting malignancy, and identifying true neoplasms. CNB should be the procedure of choice in patients with multiple nondiagnostic FNAs prior to excisional biopsy. These studies have shown that CNB has enhanced accuracy and equivalent safety compared to FNA and lower rates of complications as compared to excisional biopsy (Laryngoscope. 2018;129:2669–2670)

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