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Endocr J. 2017 Aug 30;64(8):759-765. doi: 10.1507/endocrj.EJ17-0082. Epub 2017 Jul 13.

Reappraisal of "cyst fluid only" on thyroid fine-needle aspiration cytology.

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Department of Laboratory, Kuma Hospital, Kobe, Japan.
Department of Diagnostic Pathology, Kuma Hospital, Kobe, Japan.
Department of Surgery, Kuma Hospital, Kobe, Japan.


According to the Bethesda System for Reporting Thyroid Cytopathology (BSRTC), cyst fluid only (CFO) cases are classified in the non-diagnostic category. To date, no large study focusing on CFO has been conducted. To reassess the diagnostic significance of CFO, we compared CFO nodules with non-diagnostic nodules excluding CFO (ND-other). We reviewed the conventional thyroid smears of 715 CFO and 766 ND-other nodules. We compared the timing of and findings at re-aspiration, the histology of resected specimens, and the proportion of malignant nodules between the two groups. Re-aspiration was performed in 9.0% of CFO and 23.8% of ND-other cases. In 12.5% of CFO and 49.4% of ND-other cases, the interval between the first and second aspirations was <3 months. Despite this, there were no cases in which cytological interpretation was complicated by the first aspiration. Overall, 77 CFO nodules (10.8%) were surgically resected; 14 were malignant. In all cases in which re-aspiration cytology revealed malignancy, the initial ultrasound interpretation was a high or intermediate suspicion pattern. The proportion of malignancies subsequently diagnosed in nodules initially classified as CFO and ND-other was 2.0% and 5.6%, respectively (p<0.01). As CFO and ND-other thyroid nodules have different clinical management and malignancy rates, we would like to assert that CFO and ND-other nodules should be separated, and that the former should be considered diagnostic. In terms of clinical management, we recommend that only CFO cases with concerning features on ultrasound undergo re-aspiration.


Bethesda System; Cyst fluid only; Non-diagnostic; Thyroid; Unsatisfactory

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