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Chest. 2014 Jan;145(1):60-65. doi: 10.1378/chest.13-0756.

The role of the pulmonologist in rapid on-site cytologic evaluation of transbronchial needle aspiration: a prospective study.

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Pulmonary Diseases Unit, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Ospedali Riuniti, Ancona.
Department of Immunoallergic and Respiratory Diseases, and the Cytopathology Unit, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Ospedali Riuniti, Ancona.
Pulmonary Diseases Unit, Department of Clinical and Molecular Biomedicine, University of Catania, Catania.
Neuroepidemiology Operating Unit, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Carlo Besta, Milan, Italy.
Pulmonary Diseases Unit, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Ospedali Riuniti, Ancona. Electronic address:



Rapid on-site cytologic evaluation (ROSE) of cytologic specimens is a useful ancillary technique in needle aspiration procedures of pulmonary/mediastinal lesions. ROSE is not a widespread technique, however, because of a lack of time and resources. Our aim was to verify whether, in comparison with a board-certified cytopathologist, a pulmonologist could evaluate the adequacy of transbronchial needle aspiration (TBNA) specimens on-site to diagnose hilar/mediastinal adenopathies/masses after receiving training in cytopathology. Our secondary aim was to assess and compare the accuracy of ROSE as performed by both physicians.


A pulmonologist and a cytopathologist, the latter deemed the gold standard, performed ROSE and classified specimens into five diagnostic categories. Agreement between clinicians was assessed through κ statistics. The accuracy of ROSE was established according to definitive cytologic assessment.


A total of 362 TBNAs were performed on 84 patients affected by hilar/mediastinal lymphadenopathies. There was an 81% overall substantial agreement between observers (κ, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.61-0.86; P , 0.001), which became excellent in cases of malignant disease (κ, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.70-0.90; P , 0.001). The accuracy of ROSE performed by the pulmonologist (80%; 95% CI, 77-90) was not statistically different from that provided by the cytopathologist (92%; 95% CI, 85-94).


Our study provides the first evidence, to our knowledge, that a trained pulmonologist can assess the adequacy of cytologic smears on-site. Training pulmonologists to have a basic knowledge of cytopathology could obviate most difficulties related to the involvement of cytopathologists in routine diagnostic activities and may reduce the costs of the procedure.

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