The results of 197 consecutive fine needle aspirations (FNA) of focal liver lesions performed on 176 patients were reviewed, and the 176 single most diagnostic aspirates were analyzed in detail. The majority of specimens were obtained using a 20-gauge or 22-gauge needle with ultrasound guidance. An attempt was made to obtain both a cytologic and a tissue specimen from each aspirate. The overall accuracy of the procedure was 85%; the accuracies of the tissue and cytologic specimens were 67% and 73%, respectively. The combined procedure detected 81% of the documented malignant tumors; the tissue specimen detected 62%. Eleven tumors were identified only in the tissue specimen and 23 were identified only in the cytologic specimen. There were no false-positive diagnoses. Six of nine hepatocellular carcinomas were detected. These results show that FNA cytology is a safe, accurate, relatively noninvasive technique whose diagnostic yield may be improved by examination of both a histologic tissue and a cytologic preparation.