Between January 1, 1992 and December 31, 1997, a cytopathological diagnosis of follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma (FVPC) was made on a series of 16 out of 18 patients with palpable nodules who underwent fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) in our Department. The results of aspiration biopsy were followed by histopathological examination of the surgically excised tissues. There were three false-negative aspirations (16.6%), of which two were probably bound to fine-needle sampling and one due to a mixture of benign and malignant cells which had originally gone unrecognized. The accuracy of the cytopathologic diagnosis in this variant was 88.8%.
An analysis of the diagnostic cytopathological criteria was performed, which demonstrated the importance of both architectural features (monolayered and branching sheets, microacinar structures, and their combinations) and nuclear features (presence of nuclear grooves). Background -bound features were mainly represented by dense, nonfilamentous colloid.
The cytopathologic findings in FVPC were compared to those found in a series of 10 usual papillary carcinomas (UPC) and 10 follicular neoplasms (FN). These latter had originally been diagnosed by FNAB and were subsequently classified histologically as follicular adenoma (n = 6), follicular carcinoma (n = 3), or adenomatoid colloid nodule (n = 1).
Statistical evaluation was performed on the cytopathological findings in the three classes of lesions (FVPC, UPC, and FN) as to their presence and relative frequency or absence by using a nonparametric one-way ANOVA (Kruskall-Wallis) and, where necessary, a Mann-Whitney U test.
Papillary cellular fragments and multinucleated giant cells (P < 0.005), nonfilamentous dense colloid, squamoid cells, and syncytia were significantly more represented in UPC than in FVPC (P < 0.05), while histiocytes were significantly more frequent in FVPC (P < 0.005). Other nuclear and/or background features were significant only in the distinction between papillary carcinomas as a group and FN.
The cytological differential diagnosis of the FVPC is briefly discussed with relevance to the possible pitfalls caused by its peculiar cyto- and histomorphology. Diagn. Cytopathol. 2001;25:86–93. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.