Sonographic and cytopathologic correlation of papillary thyroid carcinoma variants

J Ultrasound Med. 2015 Jan;34(1):1-15. doi: 10.7863/ultra.34.1.1.


Papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) is the most common thyroid cancer and constitutes more than 70% of thyroid malignancies. Although TNM staging is the most widely used parameter for determination of therapeutic plans, recent studies have suggested that different histopathologic variants of PTC can also have different clinical courses and patient prognoses. Sonographic criteria for PTC are well established and include a taller-than-wide shape, an irregular margin, microcalcifications, and marked hypoechogenicity. The role of sonography has expanded to enable the characterization of PTC variants based on their sonographic features. Tall cell and diffuse sclerosing variants appear to have more aggressive clinical courses with unfavorable prognoses, whereas the more recently described cribriform-morular and Warthin-like variants have relatively indolent clinical courses. The prognoses of patients with follicular, solid, columnar cell, and oncocytic variants are still controversial and may be similar to the prognosis of conventional PTC. Understanding the sonographic characteristics of PTC variants with clinicopathologic correlation may be helpful for suggesting an appropriate treatment plan.

Keywords: cytology; papillary thyroid carcinoma; pathology; sonography; thyroid neoplasm.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carcinoma, Papillary / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carcinoma, Papillary / ultrastructure
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Thyroid Cancer, Papillary
  • Thyroid Gland / diagnostic imaging
  • Thyroid Gland / ultrastructure
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ultrasonography