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Fine needle aspiration cytodiagnosis of subacute (de Quervain's) thyroiditis in an endemic goitre area.

Between 1977 and 1989 252 fine needle aspirates (FNAs) of the thyroid from patients with a clinical suspicion of subacute granulomatous (de Quervain's) thyroiditis were examined in the Department of Pathology of the University of Innsbruck, Austria. In the same period 31 cases with preoperative FNA were diagnosed histologically as subacute thyroiditis. Only in three of these cases were the cytological features of de Quervain's thyroiditis found in the preoperative FNA. However, in 13 of these 31 cases a cytological suspicion of malignancy was obtained. Subsequent histological examination revealed an acute phase inflammation of de Quervain's thyroiditis in most of these cases. We conclude that an accurate FNA diagnosis of de Quervain's thyroiditis, particularly in the acute stage, may cause difficulties due to a lack of typical features and the appearance of atypical thyroid follicular cells. For the cytopathologist, accurate clinical information relating to the possibility of de Quervain's thyroiditis is essential if unnecessary surgery is to be avoided.

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