Fine-needle aspiration biopsy of suspected intraocular tumors. The 1992 Urwick Lecture

Ophthalmology. 1993 Nov;100(11):1677-84. doi: 10.1016/s0161-6420(93)31418-1.


Background: Fine-needle aspiration biopsy recently has been used as a diagnostic modality for selected intraocular tumors and simulating conditions. However, the value of fine-needle aspiration biopsy for intraocular tumors previously has not been clarified.

Methods: Transocular fine-needle aspiration biopsy was performed on selected patients who had intraocular lesions that were suspected clinically to be neoplasms but in which there was diagnostic uncertainty based on noninvasive clinical evaluation. These cases were analyzed to determine accuracy, complications, and limitations of the technique.

Results: Of 6500 patients referred to the Oncology Service for evaluation of possible intraocular tumor, transocular fine-needle aspiration biopsy was used clinically in 159 cases (2.4%). It proved to be a reliable diagnostic method for intraocular malignancies such as uveal melanoma, uveal metastasis, retinoblastoma, lymphoma, and leukemia. In the 140 cases (88%) in which adequate cytologic material was obtained, the sensitivity rate was 100% and the specificity rate was 98%. In 19 cases where the cytologic material was too scant to render a diagnosis, the sensitivity rate was 84% and the specificity rate was 98%. The problem of insufficient material for cytologic diagnosis has been greatly minimized with the recent use of a 22-gauge needle. The main complication was localized intraocular hemorrhage. Retinal detachment and tumor recurrence have not been observed.

Conclusions: Transocular fine-needle aspiration biopsy is a safe and reliable diagnostic method for suspected intraocular tumors and inflammatory conditions in which noninvasive diagnostic modalities have failed to establish the diagnosis and in which cytologic verification of the diagnosis is necessary to institute appropriate treatment. Although the authors have had few complications with fine-needle aspiration biopsy, the technique should be reserved for selected cases where the diagnosis has not been established by less-invasive diagnostic measures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anterior Eye Segment / pathology
  • Biopsy, Needle* / adverse effects
  • Biopsy, Needle* / methods
  • Eye Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Eye Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Uvea / pathology