Ask your doctor about all of your testing or treatment options and consider getting a second opinion before deciding on an aspiration.

Who performs aspiration?

The type of doctor who performs your aspiration will vary based on the type of aspiration. Following is a partial list of specialists who perform aspirations:

  • General surgeons specialize in the surgical care of diseases, injuries and deformities affecting the abdomen, breasts, digestive tract, endocrine system and skin.
  • Infectious disease specialists are internists or pediatricians who have additional training in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases.
  • Obstetrician and gynecologists (Ob/Gyns) specialize in women's health, pregnancy, and labor and delivery.
  • Oncologists are internal medicine doctors or pediatricians who have specialized training in treating cancer.
  • Orthopedic surgeons specialize in the surgical treatment of diseases of the bones and connective tissues.
  • Pulmonologists are internists or pediatricians with specialized training in treating diseases and conditions of the chest. They include pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, emphysema, or complicated chest infections.
  • Radiologists are physicians that are trained to utilize imaging, such as ultrasound to guide aspirations.

How is aspiration performed?

You aspiration will be performed in a doctor's office, outpatient setting, or hospital, depending on the type of aspiration and your condition.

Doctors usually use a local anesthesia to numb the area during aspiration. This is a type of nerve block. It involves injecting an anesthetic using a tiny needle in the skin and tissues around the procedure area.  This numbs (blocks) a small area around the procedure site. 

Aspiration can also be part of a surgery using general anesthesia, which puts you in a deep sleep.

Commonly performed aspiration procedures generally include these steps:

  1. You will remove your clothing and possibly dress in a patient gown.
  2. You will be lie on the examination table to allow access to the aspiration site. 
  3. In some cases, your doctor will sedate you to make you drowsy and relaxed. Your team will monitor your vital signs in this case. You may also have a pain medication.
  4. Your doctor will clean and numb the aspiration site.
  5. Your doctor will insert a needle into the appropriate area. Insertion of the biopsy needle may be guided by imaging technology, such as ultrasound or CT scan.
  6. Your doctor will withdraw a small amount of fluid or tissue into a syringe for testing. Excessive fluid is withdrawn with a large syringe or a device attached to the needle.
  7. Your doctor will detach the syringe full of fluid from the needle and replace it with a syringe of medication to inject, if needed.
  8. Your doctor will remove the needle and clean and bandage the area.
  9. Your doctor will send the fluid or tissue sample to the laboratory for evaluation.
  10. Your doctor may leave a drain where the needle was placed to continue draining fluid. Your doctor will discuss this with you before the procedure.

Will I feel pain?

Your comfort and relaxation is important to you and your care team. You may feel a pinch, discomfort or stinging when the area is numbed and pressure during the procedure. Your doctor will give you pain and sedative medications as needed so that you stay comfortable. Tell you care team if you are uncomfortable in any way.

What are the risks and potential complications of aspiration?  

Complications of aspiration are uncommon but can occur and may become serious in some cases. Complications can develop during the procedure or recovery. 

Complications of aspiration are not common but include: 

  • Adverse reaction or problems related to sedation or medications, such as an allergic reaction and problems with breathing
  • Bleeding
  • Headache after a lumbar puncture
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure) if a large amount of fluid is removed
  • Infection
  • Nerve injury
  • Pneumothorax (air in the space around the lung that can collapse the lung) from a thoracentesis 
  • Pregnancy complications after amniocentesis, such as miscarriage, amniotic fluid leaking, or injury or infection to the baby
  • Re-accumulation of fluid when excessive fluid is withdrawn for a treatment 
  • Return of pain or worsening pain