Preoperative Cytologic Diagnosis of Noninvasive Follicular Thyroid Neoplasm with Papillary-Like Nuclear Features: A Prospective Analysis

Thyroid. 2016 Oct;26(10):1466-1471. doi: 10.1089/thy.2016.0280. Epub 2016 Sep 8.


Background: The term noninvasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear features (NIFTP) has been proposed to replace noninvasive follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma (FVPTC) in recognition of the indolent behavior of this tumor. The ability to differentiate NIFTP from classical papillary thyroid carcinoma (cPTC) by fine-needle aspiration (FNA) would facilitate conservative management for NIFTP. The aim of this study was to determine if NIFTP can be distinguished prospectively from cPTC.

Methods: From June 2015 to January 2016, thyroid FNAs with a diagnosis of "malignant" or "suspicious for malignancy" were prospectively scored for features associated with NIFTP/FVPTC (microfollicular architecture) or cPTC (papillae, psammomatous calcifications, sheet-like architecture, and nuclear pseudoinclusions) and categorized as NIFTP/FVPTC, cPTC, or indeterminate. Results were correlated with subsequent histologic diagnoses.

Results: The study included 52 patients with 56 resected nodules with a cytologic diagnosis of "malignant" (43/56) or "suspicious for malignancy" (13/56). Forty-nine patients (94%) underwent initial total thyroidectomy. Histopathologic diagnoses included 42 cPTC, 8 NIFTP, 3 invasive FVPTC, 2 follicular adenomas, and 1 poorly differentiated carcinoma. Excluding 7 indeterminate cases, 89% (8/9) of nodules classified as NIFTP/FVPTC on FNA demonstrated follicular-patterned lesions on histology (5 NIFTP, 1 invasive FVPTC, 2 follicular adenomas). Cytopathologists prospectively identified cPTC in 95% (38/40) of cases.

Conclusions: In thyroid FNAs with cytologic features concerning for PTC, NIFTP/FVPTC can be distinguished from cPTC in most cases by assessing a limited number of features. Therefore, it is both feasible and appropriate to attempt to separate NIFTP/FVPTC from cPTC on FNA to promote appropriate clinical management.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / diagnosis*
  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / diagnostic imaging
  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / pathology
  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / surgery
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Boston
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Cell Nucleus / pathology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Errors / prevention & control
  • Endoscopic Ultrasound-Guided Fine Needle Aspiration
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Prospective Studies
  • Thyroid Gland / diagnostic imaging
  • Thyroid Gland / pathology*
  • Thyroid Gland / surgery
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / surgery
  • Thyroid Nodule / diagnosis*
  • Thyroid Nodule / diagnostic imaging
  • Thyroid Nodule / pathology
  • Thyroid Nodule / surgery
  • Thyroidectomy
  • Young Adult

Supplementary concepts

  • Thyroid cancer, follicular