Impact of image analysis and artificial intelligence in thyroid pathology, with particular reference to cytological aspects

Cytopathology. 2020 Sep;31(5):432-444. doi: 10.1111/cyt.12828. Epub 2020 May 7.


Objective: Thyroid pathology has great potential for automated/artificial intelligence algorithm application as the incidence of thyroid nodules is increasing and the indeterminate interpretation rate of fine-needle aspiration remains relatively high. The aim of the study is to review the published literature on automated image analysis and artificial intelligence applications to thyroid pathology with whole-slide imaging.

Methods: Systematic search was carried out in electronic databases. Studies dealing with thyroid pathology and use of automated algorithms applied to whole-slide imaging were included. Quality of studies was assessed with a modified QUADAS-2 tool.

Results: Of 919 retrieved articles, 19 were included. The main themes addressed were the comparison of automated assessment of immunohistochemical staining with manual pathologist's assessment, quantification of differences in cellular and nuclear parameters among tumour entities, and discrimination between benign and malignant nodules. Correlation coefficients with manual assessment were higher than 0.76 and diagnostic performance of automated models was comparable with an expert pathologist diagnosis. Computational difficulties were related to the large size of whole-slide images.

Conclusions: Overall, the results are promising and it is likely that, with the resolution of technical issues, the application of automated algorithms in thyroid pathology will increase and be adopted following suitable validation studies.

Keywords: artificial intelligence; digital pathology; image analysis; systematic review; thyroid; whole-slide imaging.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Artificial Intelligence / trends
  • Cytodiagnosis / trends*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Thyroid Gland / pathology*
  • Thyroid Gland / ultrastructure
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / ultrastructure
  • Thyroid Nodule / diagnosis
  • Thyroid Nodule / pathology
  • Thyroid Nodule / ultrastructure