Fine-needle aspiration cytology and thyroid surgery in the community hospital

Am J Surg. 1996 Nov;172(5):529-34; discussion 534-5. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9610(96)00230-9.


Background: To assess the use and usefulness of fine-needle aspiration cytologic biopsy (FNAB) of the thyroid in our hospital.

Methods: All cytology slides and charts of patients who had FNAB of the thyroid done in our hospital in 1993 were reviewed. Charts of all patients having thyroid surgery in our hospital in 1993 were reviewed to determine the pathological diagnosis and whether FNAB had been performed preoperatively. Finally, we reviewed all consecutive thyroid surgery cases for an 8-year period, and we calculated the yearly percentage of malignancy.

Results: Fifty-five FNAB were done in 53 patients. In 21 patients the FNAB gave indication for thyroid surgery, yet surgery was done in only 12 (57.1%). Forty-two patients had surgery for a thyroid nodule, but only 20 patients (47.6%) had a preoperative FNAB. There were 3 malignancies among the 20; 2 were correctly predicted by FNAB. The FNAB was correct in 18 of 20. In all, 378 thyroid operations were done from 1987 to 1994. The yearly proportion of thyroid malignancy ranged from 11% to 29%, but showed no change corresponding with increasing diagnostic sophistication.

Conclusions: Fine-needle aspiration cytologic biopsy in the workup of patients with thyroid masses is strikingly underutilized in our institution. While accurate in 90% of cases where used, FNAB appears to play a minor role in the surgeon's decision regarding surgery. As a result of these findings, we developed a grading system for better communication of the FNAB report and a clinical guideline to improve the evaluation of patients with thyroid masses.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy, Needle / statistics & numerical data*
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Thyroid Diseases / pathology*
  • Thyroid Diseases / surgery*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / surgery*