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M Dalvi, F Dalvi, R Ainsworth, FW Gibb, H Horsfall, D Patel, MWJ Strachan
Journal Issue: 
Volume 46: Issue 3: 2016



Fine needle aspiration is routinely performed as part of the assessment of thyroid nodules. It is generally regarded as a very safe procedure, though rarely significant bleeding can occur in its aftermath.

A 79-year-old female was referred for assessment of an incidental thyroid nodule which had been identified on computed tomography of the chest and extended into the retrosternal space. The patient was referred for fine needle aspiration under ultrasound guidance. Three passes were made with a 25 gauge needle into the nodule; a haemorrhagic aspirate was obtained and sent for cytological examination. Several hours later, the patient developed a cough and progressive breathlessness and died at home before she could be taken to hospital.

The key finding from the post-mortem was extensive haemorrhage within the capsule of thyroid. In the absence of another identifiable aetiology, the cause of death was considered to be acute haemorrhage into the thyroid gland. Thyroid fine needle aspiration is generally a safe procedure, but it is important to recognise that, rarely, major complications can occur.