Background: Indeterminate and nondiagnostic patterns represent the main limitation of fine-needle aspiration (FNA) cytology of thyroid nodules, clinical and echographic features being poorly predictive of malignancy. The newly developed real-time ultrasound elastography (USE) has been previously applied to differentiate malignant from benign lesions. The aim of this study was to get further insights into the role of USE in the presurgical diagnosis of nodules with indeterminate or nondiagnostic cytology.
Patients: The study included 176 patients who had one (n=138) or multiple (n=38) nodules with indeterminate or nondiagnostic cytology on FNA, for whom histology was available after thyroidectomy. A total of 195 nodules (142 indeterminate, 53 nondiagnostic) were submitted to USE, and elasticity was scored as 1 (high), 2 (intermediate), or 3 (low).
Results: In indeterminate lesions, the score 1, describing high elasticity, was strongly predictive of benignity, being found in 102 of 111 benign nodules and in only one of 31 carcinomas (P<0.0001). By combining the scores 2 and 3, USE had a sensitivity of 96.8% and a specificity of 91.8%. In nodules with nondiagnostic cytology, score 1 was found in 39 of 45 benign nodules and in only one of eight carcinomas (P<0.0001). By combining the scores 2 and 3, USE had a sensitivity of 87.5% and a specificity of 86.7%.
Conclusions: USE may represent an important tool for the diagnosis of thyroid cancer in nodules with indeterminate or nondiagnostic cytology and may prove useful in selecting patients who are candidates for surgery.