Fine-needle aspiration cytology: a reliable tool in the diagnosis of salivary gland lesions

J Oral Pathol Med. 2012 Jan;41(1):106-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0714.2011.01069.x. Epub 2011 Aug 29.


Background: Fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) is used as the main initial diagnostic investigation for lumps in the head and neck region. Major salivary glands and some minor salivary glands are easily accessible; therefore, they are optimal targets for FNAC. The aim of this study was to discuss the advantages and pitfalls of FNAC as compared to histopathology in the salivary gland lesions.

Material and methods: A total of 127 FNAC were carried out on salivary gland lesions from January 2006 to December 2010--a 5-year period. Histopathological follow-up data were obtained in 56 cases. The study was conducted to examine the sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of FNAC for salivary gland swellings in comparison with histopathology.

Results: The male-to-female ratio was 2.4:1. Parotid gland was involved in 51.1%, submandibular gland in 37%, sublingual gland in 4.7%, and minor salivary glands in 7% of patients. There were 55.9% cases of non-neoplastic lesions and 44.1% cases of neoplastic lesions on biopsy. Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value of FNAC for malignant neoplastic lesions were 84.61%, 86.48%, 68.75%, and 94.11%, respectively, whereas for benign neoplastic lesions, they were 84.61%, 91.66%, 91.6%, and 85%, respectively.

Conclusion: Fine-needle aspiration cytology is found to be a good sensitive and specific technique for the diagnosis of most of the salivary gland lesions. FNAC should be adopted as an initial investigation for all salivary gland swellings in conjunction with other investigations where appropriate.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma, Pleomorphic / pathology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle / standards*
  • Carcinoma, Mucoepidermoid / pathology
  • Coloring Agents
  • Cytodiagnosis
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parotid Diseases / pathology
  • Parotid Neoplasms / pathology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Salivary Gland Diseases / pathology*
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / pathology
  • Salivary Glands, Minor / pathology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sialadenitis / pathology
  • Sublingual Gland / pathology
  • Submandibular Gland Diseases / pathology
  • Submandibular Gland Neoplasms / pathology
  • Young Adult


  • Coloring Agents