Artificial Intelligence for Pre-operative Diagnosis of Malignant Thyroid Nodules Based on Sonographic Features and Cytology Category

Karishma Jassal, Afsanesh Koohestani, Andrew Kiu, April Strong, Nandhini Ravintharan, Meei Yeung, Simon Grodski, Jonathan W. Serpell, James C. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Current diagnosis and classification of thyroid nodules are susceptible to subjective factors. Despite widespread use of ultrasonography (USG) and fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) to assess thyroid nodules, the interpretation of results is nuanced and requires specialist endocrine surgery input. Using readily available pre-operative data, the aims of this study were to develop artificial intelligence (AI) models to classify nodules into likely benign or malignant and to compare the diagnostic performance of the models. Methods: Patients undergoing surgery for thyroid nodules between 2010 and 2020 were recruited from our institution’s database into training and testing groups. Demographics, serum TSH level, cytology, ultrasonography features and histopathology data were extracted. The training group USG images were re-reviewed by a study radiologist experienced in thyroid USG, who reported the relevant features and supplemented with data extracted from existing reports to reduce sampling bias. Testing group USG features were extracted solely from existing reports to reflect real-life practice of a non-thyroid specialist. We developed four AI models based on classification algorithms (k-Nearest Neighbour, Support Vector Machine, Decision Tree, Naïve Bayes) and evaluated their diagnostic performance of thyroid malignancy. Results: In the training group (n = 857), 75% were female and 27% of cases were malignant. The testing group (n = 198) consisted of 77% females and 17% malignant cases. Mean age was 54.7 ± 16.2 years for the training group and 50.1 ± 17.4 years for the testing group. Following validation with the testing group, support vector machine classifier was found to perform best in predicting final histopathology with an accuracy of 89%, sensitivity 89%, specificity 83%, F-score 94% and AUROC 0.86. Conclusion: We have developed a first of its kind, pilot AI model that can accurately predict malignancy in thyroid nodules using USG features, FNAC, demographics and serum TSH. There is potential for a model like this to be used as a decision support tool in under-resourced areas as well as by non-thyroid specialists.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330–339
Number of pages10
JournalWorld Journal of Surgery
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

Cite this