The diagnostic value of fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) in the assessment of palpable supraclavicular lymph nodes: a study of 218 cases

Cytopathology. 2003 Aug;14(4):201-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2303.2003.00057.x.


The aim of this study was to evaluate the diagnostic value of fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) in the assessment of palpable supraclavicular lymph nodes. The material was analysed in 218 cases with enlarged supraclavicular lymph nodes in which FNAC was performed by the conventional method. In all cases cytological examination was performed on-site after staining the smears by the Papanicolaou method. In addition, air-dried smears, fixed smears, filter preparations from needle washings and cell blocks were studied. The FNAC diagnosis was supported by examining cell blocks which added the reliability of histological architecture; further support was obtained by tissue biopsy and/or comparison with the primary tumour in some of the cases. Eleven cases were diagnosed as inflammatory lesions and 41 cases were unsatisfactory because of scanty/acellular samples (despite two to three repeat samplings). However, in five of these, malignant tumours were later found on biopsy, which was done for persistent enlargement of the supraclavicular lymph node(s). Fifty-three cases were diagnosed as negative for malignancy (normal cellular elements, n=15; reactive elements, n=38) and 12 cases were suspicious of malignancy. In 11 cases a diagnosis of lymphoma was made on histology and in 90 cases metastatic tumours were diagnosed. The overall sensitivity was 92.7%, specificity 98.5%, positive predictive value 97.3% and the negative predictive value was 94.8%. Based on our study we feel that FNAC of palpable supraclavicular lymph nodes as a first line of investigation is a cost-effective procedure and is not only useful in the diagnosis of various lesions but can also help in deciding on appropriate management. Furthermore, the histological architecture from cell blocks can be correlated with cytology, and such material can be used for appropriate histochemical and immunomarker studies, which can be useful in enhancing the diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle*
  • Clavicle
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Inflammation
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology*
  • Lymphadenitis / pathology
  • Lymphatic Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Lymphatic Diseases / pathology
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / pathology*
  • Lymphoma / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palpation
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Sensitivity and Specificity