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Follicular lesions of the thyroid: A retrospective study of 1,348 fine needle aspiration biopsies



Fine needle aspiration (FNA) has proven to be an effective tool in management of patients with thyroid nodules. However, the diagnosis of follicular patterned lesions can be challenging. The surgical and cytopathology computer database at a large referral medical center was searched for cases that had both cytologic and histologic thyroid accessions from January 2004 to November 2008. A total of 1,255 histologic thyroid specimens and 2,776 thyroid FNA biopsies were retrieved for review. Histologically, 272 overt malignancies were identified; 20 (7.4%) were follicular carcinomas. Cytologically, 1,348 cases were follicular-patterned lesions, comprising 1,044 cases of “benign follicular nodules” (BFN), 137 cases of “follicular lesions of undetermined significance” (FLUS), and 167 cases of “suspicious for follicular neoplasm” (SFN). Seventy-nine (7.5%) of BFN, 23 (16.8%) of FLUS, and 65 (38.9%) of SFN cases had histologic follow-up. Overt malignancy, a cystic papillary carcinoma, was identified histologically in only one case of BFN, for a negative predictive value of 98.7%. Overt malignancy was identified histologically in two cases of FLUS, both follicular variant of papillary carcinoma, for a positive predictive value of 8.7%. Overt malignancy was identified histologically in 14 cases of SFN, for a positive predictive value of 21.5%. Five follicular carcinomas were identified histologically in the SFN category, all minimally invasive. Incidental (“occult”) papillary microcarcinoma were identified histologically in all three categories. In this study, the risk of overt malignancy increases from 1.3%, to 8.7%, to 21.5% for BFN, FLUS, and SFN, respectively. All follicular carcinomas identified histologically occurred in the SFN category and all were minimally invasive. Papillary microcarcinomas can occur in any of the three diagnostic categories. Diagn. Cytopathol. 2012;40:E8–E12. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.