Diagnosing atypia of undetermined significance in thyroid fine needle aspiration samples using nuclear scoring

Ann Diagn Pathol. 2019 Aug;41:112-115. doi: 10.1016/j.anndiagpath.2019.06.001. Epub 2019 Jun 9.


Background: Atypia of undetermined significance (AUS) is an indeterminate category in the Bethesda system for reporting thyroid cytopathology. Cytological features described as atypia are not always observed in every case, and it is difficult to determine how the small population of cells with enlarged nuclei, a few grooves, and rare elongated nuclei should be classified. Therefore, there is inter-intra observer variability considering these cell types, even though the cytological criteria are well defined. Therefore, this study aimed to establish a nuclear scoring system to help in the differential diagnosis of AUS.

Methods: Fine needle aspiration (FNA) samples that showed AUS and had surgical follow-up were included in this study. The aspirate was scored for the presence of intanuclear cytoplasmic inclusions, nuclear grooves, overlapping, enlargement, and elongation individually. The total nuclear score for each case was calculated. Statistical analysis of the association between each nuclear feature and the presence of papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) in the surgical specimens was performed. Cut-off points from the total score of these nuclear features were also calculated.

Results: Nuclear grooves and overlapping were more common in malignant cases (p < 0.001 and p = 0.048, respectively). A cut-off point of ≥5.5 for the total score was sensitive and specific for defining malignancy.

Conclusion: The risk of PTC was higher in nodules with more prominent nuclear overlapping or nuclear groove in their FNA samples. In order to achieve a more confident AUS diagnosis, our scoring system can be helpful for thyroid FNA samples.

Keywords: Atypia of undetermined significance/follicular lesion of undetermined significance; Fine needle aspiration cytology; Nuclear groove; Nuclear overlapping; Nuclear scoring; Thyroid.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thyroid Cancer, Papillary / diagnosis*
  • Thyroid Cancer, Papillary / pathology*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology*