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CYTOPATHNET: Online Resource for Cytopathology > Thyroid Cytology locked
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Thyroid Cytology locked

Procuration and Preparation of Cell Samples

1. Procurement of cell samples

Obtaining an adequate or satisfactory cell sample for cytologic evaluation is not simple, and interpreting thyroid cytology is challenging and requires expertise. To perform thyroid FNA, the TN is identified by palpation, and a 22- to 25-gauge and 4.5-cm-long needle is commonly used to procure cell samples from at least three different areas of any TN. Usually, only dermal anesthesia is required. Depending on personal preferences FNA of a TN may be performed either with or without a syringe. However, for cystic thyroid lesions, the cyst contents should be evacuated first by FNA with a syringe. The gland is then carefully examined by palpation. If a residual nodule is found, it should be aspirated. If the TN is difficult to identify by palpation the patient should be referred to a radiologist for FNA under ultrasonographic guidance. Since the thyroid is rich in capillary blood vessels the needle aspirate usually contains a large amount of peripheral blood that may be reduced by limiting the biopsy procedure to about five seconds or by using the FNA technique without aspiration.

2. Preparation of cell samples
For cytological evaluation, smears should be appropriately prepared and stained. Depending on the amount
and nature of the thyroid needle aspirates one of the following preparation techniques is used: (a). A small drop of thyroid aspirate is put near the frosted end of a glass slide and is quickly and gently smeared by a cover slip.(b). A small drop of thyroid aspirate is put on a glass slide and gently crushed with a second slide that is then separated vertically from the first one. (c). A small or mediumsized drop of thyroid aspirate is put near the frosted end of a slide that is placed on a table. A second slide is used to spread the aspirated material in the same manner used to prepare a peripheral blood smear. (d) Cytospin smears
should be prepared from the liquid contents of all cystic thyroid lesions. (e). Excess of aspirated material should be used for preparation of a cell block that may show diagnostic tissue fragments on sectioning. It is important that a small drop of aspirated material is used for smear preparation, as if a large drop of aspirate material is used, an unevenly thick smear may be obtained, and at the end of the slide a thick and bloody cell film may be formed. This will obscure the cellular details of underlying thyroid cells and tissue fragments, making their evaluation extremely difficult, if not impossible.

3. Routine staining methods

Depending on personal preference, either air-dried and Romanowsky-stained smears or ethanol-fixed and Papanicolaou-stained smears are prepared. For Papanicolaou staining, the smears must be fixed quickly before drying with 95% ethanol or with a commercial spray fixative. A delay in fixation will result in air-dried artefactual changes with loss of cellular details. Air-dried smears for staining with one of the Romanowsky modified methods (Wright stain, May-Grunwald-Giemsa? or Diff-Quik? method) now are widely used, as air-drying artifactual changes can be avoided. However, nuclear details in Romanowskystained smears are not as well-visualized as in wet-fixed and Papanicolaou-stained smears. A parallel use of airdried and wet-fixed smears is usually recommended, as these two staining methods are complementary. Fixation of aspiration smears in Carnoy solution for 3–5 minutes may be used to lyse red blood cells prior to staining with the Papanicolaou method.


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