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Fine-Needle Aspiration Biopsy as a Preoperative Procedure in Patients with Malignancy in Solitary and Multiple Thyroid Nodules.

BACKGROUND: Fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) is a recognized technique for the basic, preoperative cytological diagnosis of thyroid nodules.

AIM OF THE STUDY: To analyze the accuracy of FNAB in the diagnosis of thyroid cancer in patients with solitary and multiple thyroid nodules and to compare the demographic, clinical and pathological characteristics of patients with thyroid carcinoma in solitary and multiple tumors.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The case records of 2,403 patients with solitary and multiple thyroid tumors treated consecutively between 2008 and 2013 were analyzed retrospectively. We selected 1,645 for further analysis. A solitary thyroid nodule was observed in 493 patients, and multiple nodules were detected in 1,152 patients. Further classification of the patients in these two groups was performed on the basis of the FNAB results, type of surgery performed and histopathology. TC was histopathologically confirmed in 166 patients, and benign disease was found in 1,479. The TC patients were assigned to the study group, and those with benign thyroid disease were placed into the control group. The study group was divided into two subgroups according to the presence of cancer in a single thyroid nodule or in multiple nodules. Malignancy in a solitary thyroid nodule was diagnosed in 98 (59.0%) patients, and cancer in multiple nodules was diagnosed in 68 (41.0%). Comparative analyses of the demographic, clinical and histopathological characteristics were performed for both subgroups. The following statistical analyses were performed: comparative characteristic of subgroups, ROC analysis for study group and subgroup of patients, and multivariable logistic regression analysis for study group.

RESULTS: The rate of prediction of TC by FNAB was three times higher in the patients with a solitary thyroid nodule compared with those with multiple thyroid nodules and it was statistically significant (p<0.001). The rate of total thyroid resection and lack of necessity for reoperation were also significantly higher in the TC patients with a solitary nodule. The histopathological results showed that significantly more patients with a solitary nodule had advanced-stage TC (stage III or IV) and tumor progression (pT3 or pT4) (p = 0.002 for both). ROC analysis demonstrated that the overall accuracy of FNAB as a predictor of thyroid cancer presence was high, especially for the subgroup of patients with a solitary thyroid nodule (AUC = 0.958, p<0.0001). Multivariable logistic regression analysis confirmed that a positive FNAB result was the sole predictor of the performance of total resection in the TC study group (p<0.0001), while a negative FNAB result and the presence of a papillary cancer type were independent predictors of the risk of reoperation (p<0.0001 and p = 0.002, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: FNAB often produces false-negative results in patients with multiple malignant thyroid tumors, which results in reoperation in many cases. False-negative FNAB results are rare in patients with a solitary tumor. Because of the low predictive capacity of FNAB for thyroid cancer in patients with multiple thyroid tumors, total thyroid excision should be considered in most cases despite a "negative" (no malignant) FNAB result.

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