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J Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2013 Dec 20;42:61. doi: 10.1186/1916-0216-42-61.

Rates of thyroid malignancy by FNA diagnostic category.

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Department of Surgery, Division of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada.



Fine needle aspiration (FNA) of thyroid nodules is a cornerstone of surgical decision making in thyroid cancer. The most widely utilized system for reporting thyroid FNA results is the Bethesda System, which includes predicted malignancy rates for each FNA category. To date there have been few studies to determine whether these predictions are widely applicable.


All thyroid FNA results at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Science Centre from 2006-2010 were included in this study. The results were tabulated by FNA category and the health records were reviewed to determine whether the patient went on to have surgery and the result of surgical histopathology. Rates of malignancy were calculated and compared to published values.


A total of 1491 thyroid FNAs were included in the study, representing 1117 individual patients with available health records. The majority of these FNAs were Benign, but the proportion of Unsatisfactory FNAs was higher than predicted while Malignant and Suspicious for Malignancy were lower than predicted. Surgery was performed on 388 patients and 110 were positive for malignancy (28%). The malignancy rate for each FNA category was higher than predicted based on literature values.


The proportions of FNA diagnoses and the rates of malignancy for each FNA category at our institution were not consistent with predicted values. It is important for clinicians to base their surgical recommendations on institution specific malignancy rates, not solely on literature values.

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