Context: Clinically enlarged cervical lymph nodes in patients with a history of thyroid cancer are usually assessed by fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) followed by cytology with or without tissue core. Thyroglobulin (Tg) is frequently elevated in malignant FNAB needle-wash specimens and may possibly augment or replace cytology. Furthermore, the combination of undetectable serum Tg and an innocuous ultrasound might altogether obviate the need for biopsy. Objectives: The objectives of the study were to: 1) determine an appropriate diagnostic cutoff for Tg levels in FNAB; 2) assess the diagnostic performance at this cutoff; and 3) compare serum Tg and FNAB needle-wash Tg levels to determine whether serum Tg levels predict positive Tg FNAB. Design: This was a retrospective study of 122 FNAB samples in 88 athyrotic thyroid cancer patients. Results: Fifty of 52 nonmalignant FNAB samples (96.2%) had Tg 1 ng/ml or less. All 70 malignant FNAB had Tg greater than 1 ng/ml. Of 103 specimens with diagnostic cytology, five (4.9%) had discordant Tg results; in four of these FNAB Tg was concordant with the final diagnosis. Eighteen of 19 (94.7%) FNAB with nondiagnostic (n = 16) or absent (n = 3) cytology were correctly classified by FNAB needle-wash Tg. Undetectable (<0.1 ng/ml) serum Tg was associated with a negative diagnosis in 21 of 23 biopsies (91.7%); the two cancer-positive samples were both serum Tg autoantibody positive and classified as suspicious by ultrasonography. Conclusions: Nodal FNAB needle-wash Tg measurements complement cytology in thyroid cancer follow-up and might substitute for it. The combination of unremarkable ultrasonography and an undetectable serum Tg in Tg autoantibody-negative patients might obviate the need for FNAB.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Biochemistry, medical