Surgical management of the thyroid nodule: patient selection based on the results of fine-needle aspiration cytology

M Bouvet, J I Feldman, G N Gill, W H Dillmann, A M Nahum, V Russack, K T Robbins
Laryngoscope 1992, 102 (12): 1353-6
To determine whether the routine use of fine-needle aspiration (FNA) cytology reduces the rate of unnecessary surgery, the surgical pathology of 54 thyroidectomy patients who had preoperative FNA was compared to the results obtained with 24 thyroidectomy patients who did not have preoperative FNA. Twenty-nine (85.3%) of the 34 patients who had a positive FNA were confirmed by histology to have a thyroid neoplasm; in 24 patients, the neoplasm was malignant. Two of the 17 patients who had a negative FNA but underwent thyroidectomy based on other factors were found to have thyroid cancer. Only 8 (33.3%) of the 24 surgical specimens of patients who did not have an FNA were found to be malignant. FNA had a sensitivity of 93.5% and a specificity of 75.0%. The results indicate that the routine use of FNA for patients with thyroid nodules reduces the incidence of unnecessary surgery. Furthermore, FNA alone is sufficient to identify most patients at risk and is, therefore, cost-effective. However, the presence of other findings suspicious of malignancy should preclude clinical decision making based on FNA alone.

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