Topographic Distribution of Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma by Mapping in Coronal Sections of 125 Consecutive Thyroidectomy Specimens

Int J Surg Pathol. 2014 Jun;22(4):303-15. doi: 10.1177/1066896913503491. Epub 2013 Sep 18.


Introduction: Mapping of different foci in multifocal papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) has previously not been done as it is difficult to do so when thyroid specimens are serially sectioned transversely (ie, parallel to the horizontal plane). In this study, thyroidectomy specimens were serially sectioned coronally (ie, parallel to the largest surface of the thyroid gland), which allows for panoramic and 3-dimensional visualization of PTC foci and their relationship to one another.

Materials and methods: A total of 125 consecutive total thyroidectomies or lobectomies followed by completion thyroidectomies were serially sectioned coronally and reviewed with identification and characterization of PTC foci. PTCs were grouped into either discrete, encapsulated nodule(s) (EN) of both follicular or papillary architecture, usual variant (UV), or tall cell variant (TCV).

Results: The predominant tumor masses were identified in the right lobe, isthmus, and left lobe in 52%, 8%, and 40%, respectively. The largest tumor nodules ranged from 3 to 60 mm (18.8 ± 6.6) with the UV, EN, and TCV groups accounting for 58%, 24%, and 18% of cases, respectively. Three topographic patterns of PTC can be distinguished as follows: (a) single tumor nodule (37 cases), (b) main tumor nodule with satellite nodule(s) displaying no or varying degrees of fusion with the main one (30 cases), and (c) main tumor nodule with either a second large nodule or randomly occurring tumor nodules (58 cases). Bilaterality can be seen in all 3 patterns but was most prevalent in the group comprising the main tumor nodule with either a second large nodule or random tumor nodules. It was least frequent in the EN group without random tumor nodules. The difference in rates of bilaterality between tumors <10 mm and ≥10 mm was statistically significant (P < .01). For all 3 groups, satellite nodules displayed histopathological features that were similar or dissimilar to the main tumor mass. They may be of a different variant than that of the main tumor nodule.

Conclusions: With panaromic and 3-dimensional visualization, individual tumors/satellite or random nodules of multifocal PTC were readily identified in serial coronal sections of thyroidectomy specimens. Bilaterality was frequently observed in tumors associated with random PTC foci, whereas, the EN group tended to be unilateral and was not associated with random foci.

Keywords: carcinoma; mapping; papillary; thyroid.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Papillary
  • Female
  • Histological Techniques / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Thyroid Cancer, Papillary
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Thyroidectomy
  • Young Adult