Distinguishing Recurrent Thyroid Cancer from Residual Nonmalignant Thyroid Tissue Using Multiphasic Multidetector CT

AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2020 May;41(5):844-851. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A6519. Epub 2020 Apr 23.


Background and purpose: During thyroidectomy incomplete resection of the thyroid gland may occur. This complicates the imaging surveillance of these patients as residual thyroid needs to be distinguished from local recurrence. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine if multiphasic multi-detector computed tomography (4D-MDCT) can differentiate residual nonmalignant thyroid tissue and recurrent thyroid carcinoma after thyroidectomy.

Materials and methods: In this retrospective study, Hounsfield unit values on multiphasic multidetector CT in precontrast, arterial (25 seconds), venous (55 seconds), and delayed (85 seconds) phases were compared in 29 lesions of recurrent thyroid cancer, 29 with normal thyroid, and 29 with diseased thyroid (thyroiditis/multinodular thyroid). The comparison of Hounsfield unit values among lesion types by phase was performed using ANOVA. The performance of Hounsfield unit values to predict recurrence was evaluated by logistic regression and receiver operating characteristic analysis.

Results: All 3 tissue types had near-parallel enhancement characteristics, with a wash-in-washout pattern. Statistically different Hounsfield unit density was noted between the recurrence (lowest Hounsfield unit), diseased (intermediate Hounsfield unit), and normal (highest Hounsfield unit) thyroid groups throughout all 4 phases (P < .001 for each group and in each phase). Dichotomized recurrence-versus-diseased/normal thyroid tissue with univariate logistic regression analysis demonstrated that the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve for differentiating benign from malignant thyroid for the various phases of enhancement was greatest in the precontrast phase at 0.983 (95% CI, 0.954-1), with a cutoff value of ≤62 (sensitivity/specificity, 0.966/0.983) followed by the arterial phase.

Conclusions: Recurrent thyroid carcinoma can be distinguished from residual nonmalignant thyroid tissue using multiphasic multidetector CT with high accuracy. The maximum information for discrimination is in the precontrast images, then the arterial phase. An optimal clinical protocol could be built from any number of phases but should include a precontrast phase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Four-Dimensional Computed Tomography / methods*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnostic imaging*
  • ROC Curve
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Thyroid Gland / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology
  • Young Adult