Fine Needle Aspirate (FNA) in Cats

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Understanding the Fine Needle Aspirate Procedure

Lumps, bumps, and strange looking areas are common in cats. Even during routine surgical procedures such as a spay, internal organs such as the liver may appear abnormal. To help determine whether or not the suspicious organ or lump on your cat is a concern, a fine needle aspiration is often performed. A fine needle aspiration is commonly referred to as a “FNA”.

This test involves the placement of a small needle, attached to a syringe, into a suspicious area. Cells from within the area are collected and evaluated. Sometimes, a fine needle aspiration can help the veterinarian determine whether more extensive tests are needed to diagnosis the suspicious area.

A fine needle aspiration is indicated anytime there is an abnormal area or organ. There are no real contraindications to performing this test in an animal with a suspicious mass or abnormal appearing organ.

What Does a Fine Needle Aspiration Reveal in Cats?

A fine needle aspiration can reveal the type of cells, fungi or even parasites present in a suspicious mass or abnormal appearing organ. A fine needle aspiration can help determine whether or not more extensive tests are needed to evaluate a suspicious area. Many times, a fine needle aspiration can also help determine appropriate treatment.

How Is a Fine Needle Aspiration Done in Cats?

In order to perform a fine needle aspiration, your veterinarian will place a needle into a mass or organ. Depending on the type of mass and where it is on the body, the area may first be scrubbed with surgical disinfectant. After the needle is in place, the plunger is pulled back to draw cells into the needle and syringe. This sample is then placed on a microscope slide and analyzed. Sometimes, the sample is stained and microscopically evaluated by your veterinarian. Results are often available within 1 to 2 hours. If the sample needs additional evaluation, it may be submitted to an outside laboratory. Test results may not be available for up to 3 to 5 days.

Is a Fine Needle Aspiration Painful to Cats?

Any pain involved is associated with the collection of the sample, since a needle is used to pierce the skin and enter the area of concern to draw the sample. As with people, the pain experienced from a needle will vary from cat to cat.

Is Sedation or Anesthesia Needed for a Fine Needle Aspiration?

Neither sedation nor anesthesia is needed in most cats; however, some cats resent needle sticks and may need tranquilization or ultra short anesthesia.


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