Fine needle aspiration cytology of malignant mesothelioma

Acta Cytol. 1987 Mar-Apr;31(2):185-93.


The results of fine needle aspiration (FNA) cytology in 19 cases of malignant mesothelioma are presented. Adequate material for a diagnosis of malignancy was obtained in 17 cases, and in 8 cases a specific diagnosis of mesothelioma could be made. In four other cases, the findings were either consistent with or suggestive of mesothelioma; in four, accurate distinction from other neoplasms was not possible, and in two cases, adenocarcinoma was suggested. The spectrum of cytologic findings ranged from neoplasms of purely epithelial appearance through more pleomorphic biphasic neoplasms to anaplastic tumors. A combination of epithelial-like cell clusters, pavement-like sheets of epithelial cells with well-defined cell borders and prominent cell separation, dispersed angular cells with dense cytoplasm and some spindle-cell forms was the most specific cytologic pattern for mesothelioma. In four neoplasms, ultrastructural examination of aspirated material provided the additional evidence for a definitive diagnosis. The identification of hyaluronic acid within intracytoplasmic vacuoles, either in smears or in cell blocks, confirmed the diagnosis in three tumors. Only in one case, with a strong clinical background suggesting mesothelioma, was the cytologic preparation sufficient for diagnosis without ancillary diagnostic methods. FNA is of particular value in the diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma in patients who do not present with a pleural effusion. Obtaining material for cell block preparations, cytochemistry or ultrastructural study is generally necessary for definitive tumor typing.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Mesothelioma / pathology*
  • Mesothelioma / ultrastructure
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests