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Adv Surg. 2006;40:223-38.

Current status of fine needle aspiration for thyroid nodules.

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Division of Surgical Oncology, Section of Endocrine Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 497 Scaife Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15261-1497, USA.


When not to perform fine needle aspiration of a thyroid nodule In summary, FNA of thyroid nodules has become one of the most useful, safe, and accurate tools in the diagnosis of thyroid pathology. Thyroid nodules that should be considered for FNA include any firm, palpable, solitary nodule or nodule associated with worrisome clinical features (rapid growth, attachment to adjacent tissues, new hoarseness, or palpable lymphadenopathy). FNA should also be performed on nodules with suspicious ultrasonographic features (microcalcifications, rounded shape, predominantly solid composition); dominant or atypical nodules in multinodular goiter; complex or recurrent cystic nodules; or any nodule associated with palpable or ultrasonographically abnormal cervical lymph nodes. Finally, FNA should be performed on any abnormal-appearing or palpable cervical lymph nodes. The management of thyroid nodules based on FNA findings is summarized in Table 2. It can be argued that in certain circumstances the results of thyroid FNA do not change the surgical management of a thyroid nodule, and thus preoperative FNA may be unnecessary. These cases include solitary nodules in patients who have a strong family history of thyroid cancer, multiple endocrine neoplasia type II, or radiation to the head and neck. These patients when they have thyroid nodules have at least a 40% risk for thyroid cancer and frequent multifocal or bilateral disease and should undergo total thyroidectomy with or without central neck lymph node dissection. Patients who have multinodular goiter and compressive symptoms, patients who have Graves disease and a thyroid nodule, or patients who have large (greater than 4 cm) or symptomatic unilateral thyroid nodules could also be considered for total thyroidectomy or lobectomy as indicated without preoperative FNA. Finally, patients who have a solitary hyperfunctioning nodule on radioiodine scan and a suppressed TSH have an extremely low incidence of malignancy and may be considered for therapeutic thyroid lobectomy or radioiodine ablation as indicated without undergoing FNA biopsy.

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