US Predictors of Papillary Thyroid Microcarcinoma Progression at Active Surveillance

Radiology. 2023 Oct;309(1):e230006. doi: 10.1148/radiol.230006.


Background Active surveillance (AS) is an accepted strategy for patients with low-risk papillary thyroid microcarcinoma (PTMC). While previous studies have evaluated the prognostic value of US features, results have been inconsistent. Purpose To determine if US features can help predict tumor progression in patients with low-risk PTMC undergoing AS. Materials and Methods This prospective study enrolled 1177 participants with PTMC from three hospitals between June 2016 and January 2021. Participants were self-assigned to either immediate surgery or AS, and those with two or more US examinations in the absence of surgery were included in the analysis. A χ2 test was used to compare estimated tumor progression rate at 4 years between participants stratified according to US features. Multivariable Cox regression analysis was used to assess the association of clinical and US features with overall tumor progression and specific progression criteria. Results Among 699 participants included in the analysis, 68 (mean age, 49 years ± 12 [SD]; 40 female participants) showed tumor progression (median follow-up, 41.4 months ± 16 [SD]). Tumor progression was associated with the US features of diffuse thyroid disease (DTD) (hazard ratio [HR], 2.3 [95% CI: 1.4, 3.7]; P = .001) and intratumoral vascularity (HR, 1.7 [95% CI: 1.0, 3.0]; P = .04) and the participant characteristics of male sex (HR, 2.8 [95% CI: 1.7, 4.6]; P < .001), age less than 30 years (HR, 2.9 [95% CI: 1.2, 6.8]; P = .01), and thyroid-stimulating hormone level of 7 µU/mL or higher (HR, 6.9 [95% CI: 2.7, 17.4]; P < .001). The risk of tumor progression was higher for participants with DTD (14%, P = .001) or intratumoral vascularity (14%, P = .02) than for participants without these features (6%). DTD and intratumoral vascularity were associated with tumor enlargement (HR, 2.7 [95% CI: 1.4, 5.1]; P = .002) and new lymph node metastasis (HR, 5.0 [95% CI: 1.3, 19.4]; P = .02), respectively. Conclusion DTD and intratumoral vascularity were associated with an increased risk of tumor progression in participants with PTMC undergoing AS. Clinical trial registration no. NCT02938702 © RSNA, 2023 Supplemental material is available for this article. See also the editorial by Reuter and the review "International Expert Consensus on US Lexicon for Thyroid Nodules" by Durante et al in this issue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Thyroid Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Thyroid Nodule* / pathology
  • Watchful Waiting

Supplementary concepts

  • Papillary Thyroid Microcarcinoma

Associated data