Send to

Choose Destination
Cancer. 2006 Apr 25;108(2):110-3.

The value of onsite adequacy assessment of thyroid fine-needle aspirations is a function of operator experience.

Author information

Department of Pathology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8023, USA.



Cytotechnologists and pathologists often perform onsite evaluations of thyroid fine-needle aspirations (FNAs) to provide immediate feedback regarding whether adequate material has been obtained for cytologic diagnosis. The current study was designed to determine whether onsite adequacy assessment results in a significant decrease in nondiagnostic specimens between ultrasound (US)-guided FNAs of the thyroid and those performed by palpation alone.


A search was performed to identify in-house thyroid FNAs performed between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2003 that were obtained under US guidance or by palpation only. It was then recorded whether an onsite adequacy assessment was performed. The submitting physician and final diagnosis also were recorded for each case. Contingency tables were constructed and evaluated using chi-square analysis.


Of 1502 in-house thyroid FNAs included in the current study, 981 (65.3%) were performed under US guidance and 521 (34.7%) were performed with palpation alone. Onsite adequacy assessment of the aspirated material was performed in 323 cases (21.5%), whereas 1179 cases (78.5%) were performed without onsite evaluation. Of the 418 palpation-guided FNAs that were performed without adequacy assessment, 70 (16.7%) were reported to be nondiagnostic, whereas of the 103 palpation-guided FNAs with immediate evaluation, only 7 (6.8%) were determined to be inadequate for diagnosis. This difference was statistically significant (P < 0.025). Of 761 US-guided FNAs without immediate adequacy assessment, 54 (7.1%) were nondiagnostic, which was not statistically different from the nondiagnostic rate of 4.5% (10 of 220 cases) for US-guided FNAs with onsite evaluation. However, when these US-guided FNAs were divided further into 2 groups based on the experience of the radiologist performing the FNA, the nondiagnostic rate in the group of experienced radiologists was only 5.4% (or 32 of 592 US-guided FNAs), even though onsite evaluation was not performed. Among radiologists with less experience, adequacy assessment significantly reduced the nondiagnostic rate from 13.0% (22 of 169 FNAs without adequacy assessment) to 4.5% (10 of 220 FNAs with adequacy assessment) (P < 0.01).


The results of the current study demonstrate that onsite adequacy assessment of thyroid FNAs significantly reduces the number of nondiagnostic aspirates. However, the benefit of onsite evaluation, at least for US-guided FNAs, depends on the experience of the radiologist. In the current study, experienced radiologists with a relatively low nondiagnostic rate did not benefit from onsite adequacy assessment. This finding confirms the importance of experience in the performance of FNA, but suggests that onsite adequacy assessment may assist the less experienced operator.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center