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Acta Cytol. 2000 Sep-Oct;44(5):743-7.

Mediastinal masses diagnosed as thymus hyperplasia by fine needle aspiration cytology.

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Department of Medicine III, University of Ulm, Germany.



Thymic hyperplasia in the anterior mediastinum can occur in healthy children as idiopathic thymic hyperplasia or as a rebound effect after administration of chemotherapy in patients with malignancies. Thymic hyperplasia after chemotherapy is a well-documented phenomenon, particularly in children and less frequently in adults. Both forms of thymic hyperplasia are a diagnostic challenge, and most patients undergo surgical exploration. Fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) has supposed to be inadequate to diagnose benign thymic hyperplasia and to separate it from malignant disease.


We report the cytologic findings on eight patients presenting with a mass in the anterior mediastinum that was diagnosed as thymic hyperplasia on FNAC. In five patients the masses developed after chemotherapy. The remaining three patients were healthy children. Three patients underwent ultrasound-guided aspiration; in five cases the procedure was performed under computerized guidance.


In all eight patients the cytologic smears showed a mixed population of lymphoid cells. Cytologic diagnosis of thymic hyperplasia was confirmed by immunophenotyping in three patients and by follow-up studies in all of them (median, 68 months; range, 8-113).


In contrast to previous reports, this study demonstrated the utility of FNAC as a front-line investigative procedure in diagnosing thymic hyperplasia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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