Increases in thyroid nodule fine-needle aspirations, operations, and diagnoses of thyroid cancer in the United States

Surgery. 2013 Dec;154(6):1420-6; discussion 1426-7. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2013.07.006. Epub 2013 Oct 2.


Background: To provide population-based estimates of trends in thyroid nodule fine-needle aspirations (FNA) and operative volumes, we used multiple claims databases to quantify rates of these procedures and their association with the increasing incidence of thyroid cancer in the United States.

Method: Private and public insurance claims databases were used to estimate procedure volumes from 2006 to 2011. Rates of FNA and thyroid operations related to thyroid nodules were defined by CPT4 codes associated with International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision Clinical Modification codes for nontoxic uni- or multinodular goiter and thyroid neoplasms.

Results: Use of thyroid FNA more than doubled during the 5-year study period (16% annual growth). The number of thyroid operations performed for thyroid nodules increased by 31%. Total thyroidectomies increased by 12% per year, whereas lobectomies increased only 1% per year. In 2011, total thyroidectomies accounted for more than half (56%) of the operations for thyroid neoplasms in the United States. Thyroid operations became increasingly (62%) outpatient procedures.

Conclusion: Thyroid FNA and operative procedures have increased rapidly in the United States, with an associated increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer. The more substantial increase in number of total versus partial thyroid resections suggests that patients undergoing thyroid operation are perceived to have a greater risk of cancer as determined by preoperative assessments, but this trend could also increase detection of incidental microcarcinomas.

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle / statistics & numerical data
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle / trends*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Thyroid Nodule / diagnosis
  • Thyroid Nodule / epidemiology
  • Thyroid Nodule / surgery
  • Thyroidectomy / statistics & numerical data
  • Thyroidectomy / trends
  • United States / epidemiology