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Fine-needle aspiration of the thyroid: an overview
Gia-Khanh Nguyen1, Mark W Lee1, Jody Ginsberg2, Tina Wragg1 and Darcy Bilodeau1

1Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, University of Alberta Hospital, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
2Department of Medicine (Endocrinology and Metabolism), University of Alberta Hospital, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

CytoJournal 2005, 2:12 doi:10.1186/1742-6413-2-12

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at: http://www.cytojournal.com/content/2/1/12(external link)

Received 19 May 2005
Accepted 29 June 2005
Published 29 June 2005

© 2005 Nguyen et al; licensee BioMed? Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License(external link), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.




Thyroid nodules (TN) are a common clinical problem. Fine needle aspiration (FNA) of the thyroid now is practiced worldwide and proves to be the most economical and reliable diagnostic procedure to identify TNs that need surgical excision and TNs that can be managed conservatively. The key for the success of thyroid FNA consists of an adequate or representative cell sample and the expertise in thyroid cytology. The FNA cytologic manifestations of TNs may be classified into seven working cytodiagnostic groups consisting of a few heterogenous lesions each to facilitate the differential diagnosis. Recent application of diagnostic molecular techniques to aspirated thyroid cells proved to be useful in separating benign from malignant TNs in several cases of indeterminate lesions.


Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) for cytologic evaluation of thyroid cancer was originally used by Martin and Ellis at New York Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases in 1930. However, this diagnostic procedure was subsequently found to have a limited value, and it was then discontinued at the above-mentioned institution. The thyroid FNA was not further developed and did not gain acceptance in the United States for nearly 50 years until the early 1980s when its diagnostic value was firmly demonstrated by Scandinavian investigators. The 1974 report by Crockford and Bain and the 1979 paper of Miller and Hamburger were apparently the first North American publications attesting to the value of thyroid FNA. This method of clinical investigation now is practiced worldwide and has become the cornerstone in the management of thyroid nodules (TN).

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