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Pediatric thyroid nodules: insights in management.

BACKGROUND: Multiple diagnostic studies are utilized to unveil malignancy in pediatric thyroid nodules and determine whether surgical therapy is needed.

PURPOSE: The aim of this report was to determine whether management of pediatric thyroid nodules has changed with the current use of diagnostic modalities such as ultrasonography (US), radionuclear scans (RNS) and fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB).

MATERIAL/METHODS: Twenty-four children with thyroid nodules managed during a ten-year period comprised the study group. Demographic characteristics, clinical manifestations, US and RNS imaging findings, FNAB results, surgical therapy, complications and pathological reports were retrospectively reviewed. US, RNS and FNAB results were categorized as either benign, malignant, suspicious or insufficient.

RESULTS: Females outnumbered males by a five to one ratio. Mean age was 14.9 years. Nineteen nodules were benign (79%) and five malignant (21%). All children were euthyroid. Benign nodules were soft, movable, solitary and nontender. Malignant nodules were characterized by localized tenderness, a multiglandular appearance, and fixation to adjacent tissues. US and RNS gave no clue toward management since cystic and hot nodules figured among malignant cases respectively. US achieved 86% accuracy, 80% sensitivity and 88% specificity; RNS showed 26% accuracy, 80% sensitivity and 11% specificity; FNAB achieved 80% accuracy, 60% sensitivity and 90% specificity. Suppressive thyroid hormone therapy was useless in the few cases tried. Physical examination findings, persistence of the nodule, progressive growth and cosmetic appearance where the most common indications for surgery.

CONCLUSIONS: Present diagnostic modalities played a minor role in the decision to withhold surgery. US was useful for aiming aspiration of cystic nodules. RNS decided the functionality of the nodule, but its accuracy was far from ideal. FNAB is a safe procedure whose greatest help was to resolve in case of suspicious or malignant cytology that a more radical procedure is needed. Clinical judgement as determined by serial physical findings and suspicion continues to be the most determinant factors in the management of thyroid nodules in children.

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