Background: Sarcoidosis is a prevalent disease of unknown cause characterized by granulomatous inflammation that often creates deep and/or superficial mass lesions. Tissue samples are considered the "gold standard" in diagnosis; however, it is a medically treated disease. We analyzed the utility and relative cost-effectiveness of fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) in the clinical investigation of patients with both suspected and unsuspected sarcoidosis.
Methods: All FNAB cases with sarcoidosis either as the cytologic diagnosis or mentioned as part of the differential diagnosis were retrospectively reviewed for clinical history, follow-up, cytologic features, and surgical pathology findings. Comparative analysis of cost of FNAB and excisional biopsy were also made.
Results: Thirty-two FNABs in 28 patients included 17 women and 11 men. Anatomic sites included lymph node (n = 17), lung (n = 5), salivary gland (n = 8), and liver (n = 2). Sarcoidosis had already been diagnosed or was a clinical consideration prior to FNAB in 14 cases. Chest radiograph showed abnormal findings in 19 cases. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) was measured in seven patients and was elevated in four. All aspirates showed granulomatous inflammation; in 22 patients, special stains or cultures for microorganisms were negative. Simultaneous or subsequent excisional biopsies confirmed the FNAB findings in 17 patients. Institutional ratios of excisional biopsy to FNAB in the diagnosis of sarcoidosis ranged from 4 to 19:1. The cost of FNAB was only 12.5 to 50% that of tissue biopsy.
Conclusions: FNAB appears to be underutilized in the diagnosis of sarcoidosis. When used in conjunction with radiologic and laboratory data, FNAB may be a reliable and cost-effective method of diagnosis, especially in patients with an established diagnosis of sarcoidosis.