Suboptimal accuracy of ultrasound and ultrasound-based risk stratification systems in detecting medullary thyroid carcinoma should not be overlooked. Findings from a systematic review with meta-analysis

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2022 Nov;97(5):532-540. doi: 10.1111/cen.14739. Epub 2022 Apr 22.


Objective: Ultrasound (US) is the pivotal procedure during the diagnostic work-up of thyroid nodule and several US-based risk stratification systems (RSSs) have been recently developed. Since the performance of RSSs in detecting medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) has been rarely investigated, the present systematic review aimed to achieve high evidence about (1) how MTC is classified according to RSSs; (2) if RSSs correctly classify MTC at high risk/suspicion, and (3) if MTC is classified as suspicious at US when RSSs are not used.

Design: The review was performed according to MOOSE. The online search was performed by specific algorithm on January 2022. A random-effects model was used for statistical analysis.

Results: Twenty-five papers were initially included and their risk of bias was generally low. According to ATA system, 65% of MTCs was assessed at high suspicion and 25% at intermediate suspicion. Considering all RSSs, a 54.8% of MTCs was put in a high-risk/suspicion category. Pooling data from studies without data of RSS the prevalence of ultrasonographically suspicious MTCs was 60%.

Conclusions: As conclusion, MTC presentation according to RSSs is partially known and it is classified in a high-risk/suspicion category of RSSs in just over a half of cases. This advises for further studies, ideally supported by international societies, to better define the US presentation of MTC.

Keywords: TIRADS; meta-analysis; thyroid; ultrasound; ultrasound systems.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment
  • Thyroid Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Thyroid Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Thyroid Nodule* / diagnostic imaging
  • Thyroid Nodule* / pathology

Supplementary concepts

  • Thyroid cancer, medullary