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Acta Chir Belg. 2019 Jan 7:1-9. doi: 10.1080/00015458.2018.1527566. [Epub ahead of print]

Treatment of solitary thyroid nodules according to size, preoperative fine-needle aspiration cytology and frozen section: a retrospective single centre study.

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a Department of Thoracic Surgery , Erasme University Hospital , Brussels , Belgium.
b Department of Pathology , Erasme University Hospital , Brussels , Belgium.
c Department of Endocrinology , Erasme University Hospital , Brussels , Belgium.



In order to avoid unnecessary thyroidectomies, it is important to predict the nature of thyroid nodules the more accurately possible. The size of the nodule as a predictive factor for malignancy is very controversial. Another point of debate is the accuracy of preoperative fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) and frozen section (FS). The aim of our study is to correlate the nodule size with the final histological diagnosis and to estimate the accuracy of preoperative FNAC and FS.


Retrospective study including 387 operated patients with ultrasound-detected solitary thyroid nodules from 01 January 2001 to 31 December 2013. The following data were collected: patient age and sex, nodule size, FNAC, FS and final histology results.


The odds ratio for malignancy within nodules <40 mm was 2.12 (95% CI: 1.104-4.084). The specificity of FNAC was 97.78% and the negative predictive value (NPV) was 97.78% for nodules ≥40 mm and 93.2% and 96.5% for nodules <40 mm, respectively. The observed specificity and NPV of FS ranged from 98% to 100% and from 87.4% to 98%, respectively. When combining FNAC and FS, the specificity and the NPV were 99% and 98%, respectively.


The nodule size is not a predictive factor for thyroid cancer and therefore nodules ≥40 mm should not be routinely resected. A lege artis preparation and performance of FNAC along with an expertise on cytological interpretation can considerably diminish false-negative rate. FS can offer additional accuracy on FNAC results and should, therefore, be a part of patient treatment.


Thyroid; fine-needle aspiration cytology; frozen section; nodule

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