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Fine-needle aspiration is a biopsy technique where a sample of a lump or mass that lies just under the skin is removed with a thin, hollow needle. Although it is an invasive technique, it is generally without risk because of the low risk of bleeding and it usually does not require an anesthetic, either local or general (although local anesthetics are often provided). It is easy enough to be performed by an intern under supervision. When the proper antiseptic precautions are taken, there is almost no risk of infection.
Prior to the development of this technique in 1981, the biopsy of such a site would usually require a major incision and hospitalization. It can be used in both the diagnosis of cancer and the diagnosis of inflammatory disorders.