Introduction: The majority of thyroid fine needle aspiration biopsies (FNAB) today are performed in the office freehand by palpation. Not infrequently, patients are sent to radiology for an ultrasound-guided FNAB (USG-FNB). Real-time ultrasound (US) allows for continuous visualization of the needle during insertion and sampling. Historically, USG-FNAB has been a procedure performed by a radiologist in a designated radiology suite. In more recent years, with the development of smaller more portable US machines, there has been a push for clinicians other than radiologists to perform the procedure.
Objective: To evaluate the accuracy and specimen adequacy of thyroid FNAB performed in the office under US guidance by one senior otolaryngologist.
Methods: Retrospective chart review of 203 patients who underwent ultrasound-guided USG-FNA of the thyroid gland between September, 2005, to February, 2007, in the office setting by one senior otolaryngologist. Specimens were reviewed onsite at the time of biopsy for cellular adequacy by a cytotechnologist.
Results: A total of 203 patients, 176 females and 27 males, underwent USG-FNA of the thyroid gland. The average age of the females was 52 years, and 59.4 years for the males. A total of 271 FNA biopsies were performed. Two hundred and twenty FNAB were satisfactory specimens (81.2%), 26 were unsatisfactory (9.6%), and 25 (9.2%) were limited due to blood clotting or hypocellularity. Of the FNA specimens that had enough cells to evaluate, 159 were benign, 48 were indeterminate for malignacy, and 13 were positive for malignancy. Of the nodules biopsied, 143 were greater than 1.5 cm (average 2.59 cm, unsatisfactory rate 12.6%), and 128 were less than 1.5 cm (average 1.21 cm, unsatisfactory rate 6.3%).In 44 patients, one or more nodule was biopsied at the same office visit.
Discussion: Thyroid US is an indispensable tool in the workup and diagnosis of thyroid disease. It may be used to help identify pathology and physical features suspicious for malignancy and guide FNAB of suspicious nodules. The availability of an office US machine allows the referring physician to perform a service that is normally done in a different department. This ultimately frees up time for both the patient and physician and reduces health care costs by eliminating extra office visits. More importantly, it allows the primary physician to be more knowledgeable and hands on with the patient's overall care.
Conclusion: This study shows that a trained physician may perform a USG-FNA of the thyroid gland in the office with results comparable to that in the radiology literature.