Quantifying the differences in surgical management of patients with definitive and indeterminate thyroid nodule cytology

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Introduction: Thyroid nodules are increasingly common. Despite being an essential pre-operative diagnostic tool, up to 30% of fine needle aspirate cytology (FNAC) yields a non-definitive diagnosis. This study aimed to quantify differences in surgical management of patients with definitive and indeterminate thyroid nodule cytology, and determine if clinical factors can improve cytological diagnosis. Materials and methods: Patients who underwent thyroidectomy for nodules from 2001 to 2015 were recruited. Those with benign and malignant preoperative cytology were included in the “definitive diagnosis” (DC) group; patients with all other preoperative cytology results were included in the “indeterminate diagnosis” (IC) group. We compared demographics and procedures between these groups. Clinical factors and demographics were also compared between patients with benign and malignant histology in the IC group. Results: A total of 3821 cases were included. A significantly larger proportion of the IC patients had a hemithyroidectomy (IC 69% vs. DC 39%, p < 0.001) initially, and also had a significantly higher rate of two-stage surgery compared to the DC group (IC 17% vs. DC 11%, p < 0.001). Patients in the DC group were twice as likely to undergo concurrent central lymph node dissection for papillary and medullary cancers than the IC group (p < 0.001). Overall, up to 60% of IC patients had been over- or under-treated at initial surgery. The clinical factors examined were not significantly associated with higher risk of malignancy in IC patients. Conclusion: This study highlights the potential for improved preoperative diagnosis to streamline decision making for surgical management of patients with thyroid nodules.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)252-257
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Surgical Oncology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • Fine needle aspiration
  • Hemithyroidectomy
  • Indeterminate cytology
  • Thyroid nodule
  • Thyroidectomy

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