Fine-needle aspiration biopsy cytology is widely used to screen masses in adults. The authors present a series of 89 fine-needle aspiration biopsies performed between January 1973 and December 1988 on 86 pediatric patients with clinically significant head and neck masses. All fine-needle aspiration diagnoses were confirmed by subsequent surgical biopsy, autopsy, or clinical follow-up for a minimum of 18 months. Of 21 tumors identified, 19 were malignant. Of the 89 aspirations performed, 67 required no subsequent surgical biopsy. In 11 of these cases, metastatic or recurrent tumor was diagnosed and appropriate therapy instituted. Fifteen of the 89 aspirates revealed previously undiagnosed tumors requiring surgical intervention. One false-negative and two false-positive results were obtained. No radical treatment resulted from the false-positive diagnoses, and no patient delay in treatment occurred because of the false-negative result. The sensitivity was 94.4%, and the specificity was 97.1%. The usefulness and cost-effectiveness of fine-needle aspiration is stressed.