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Ultrasound Med Biol. 2012 Apr;38(4):561-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2011.12.026. Epub 2012 Feb 15.

Prevalence of malignancy in thyroid nodules with an initial nondiagnostic result after ultrasound guided fine needle aspiration.

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Department of Radiology, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


The objective of this study was to determine the rate of malignancy in thyroid nodules with an initial nondiagnostic fine needle aspiration. From October 2001 to April 2007, biopsies were performed on 1344 thyroid nodules in our practice. Biopsies were performed on nodules using 25-27 gauge needles, ultrasound guidance and multiple passes using both suction and capillary action. We retrospectively reviewed the results of these biopsies as well as any further management of nodules that received nondiagnostic results (IRB HUM00006459). Following initial biopsy, 295/1344 (21.9%) of nodules received nondiagnostic pathologic results. Of this population, 39 nodules (13.1%) were lost to follow-up. Of the remaining 256 nodules that received a repeat FNA, surgical excision, or greater than 24 months of clinical and imaging follow-up, only five cancers were detected, representing only 2% of the population that received an initial nondiagnostic biopsy result. All of these cancers were papillary neoplasms. When rigorous, ultrasound-guided, fine needle aspiration of thyroid nodules is performed, a nondiagnostic histopathologic result should not be interpreted as suspicious for thyroid cancer. Given the low rate of malignancy in this population (2%), we suggest that clinical and imaging follow-up of these nodules, opposed to repeat sampling, is warranted.

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