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The role of preoperative neck ultrasounds to assess lymph nodes in patients with suspicious or indeterminate thyroid nodules



Background and Objectives

Currently there are no recommendations for obtaining a preoperative neck ultrasound for patients with suspicious or indeterminate thyroid nodules. Because a preoperative surgical ultrasound can detect suspicious lymph nodes that could result in ultimately altering surgical management, we chose to study which variables were predictive of this change.


Medical records of 173 patients who presented between January 2006 and December 2010 with suspicious or indeterminate thyroid cytology were retrospectively reviewed. Clinicopathological variables were analyzed to determine factors predictive of malignancy and a change in operative approach.


One hundred thirty-four of 173 patients were evaluable. Seventeen of 134 (12.6%) of the preoperative ultrasounds were suspicious. Seven of 134 (5.2%) patients underwent a formal lymph node dissection based on ultrasound findings. Size of tumor, Bethesda FNAB category, and male gender were associated with malignancy while thyroid nodule microcalcifications and category of FNAB were associated with performing lymph node dissections.


Thyroid nodule microcalcifications on ultrasound and category of FNAB appear to be the best predictors of metastatic disease. Because the surgical approach was altered in only a few patients, further analysis is needed to delineate whether performing cervical ultrasound for suspicious/indeterminate nodules is cost effective. J. Surg. Oncol. 2012; 105:601–605. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.