Usefulness and limitation of thyroglobulin measurement in fine needle aspirates(FNA-Tg) for diagnosis of neck lymph node metastasis from thyroid carcinoma

Koji Sakamoto, Yorihisa Imanishi, Toshiki Tomita, Hiroyuki Ozawa, Yoichiro Sato, Yozo Inagaki, Hiroyuki Yamada, Fumihiro Ito, Noriomi Suzuki, Takeyuki Kono, Shin Saito, Masaru Noguchi, Takanori Nishiyama, Shintaro Nakamura, Hiroko Fujita, Takahisa Watabe, Seiichi Shinden, Kaoru Ogawa

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Preoperative diagnosis of lymph node metastasis from thyroid carcinoma is usually confirmed by using fine needle aspiration cytology(FNAC)when thyroid carcinoma is suspected based on the clinical findings. However, the result of FNAC sometimes leads to a false negative, especially in cases of hypocellular lesions such as metastases with cystic change. Thyroglobulin measurement in fine needle aspirates(FNA-Tg)has been shown to be a useful technique to detect the protein specifically secreted by thyroid follicular cells. Elevated FNA-Tg levels in an extra-thyroidal lesion means that the lesion comprises thyroid-originated tissue, most of which suggests the metastasis from thyroid carcinoma. Thus, FNA-Tg is expected to improve the sensitivity of FNAC for the aforementioned purpose. Patients and Methods : From 2008 to 2012, 49 extra-thyroidal lesions from 43 patients with thyroid carcinoma were examined using both FNAC and FNA-Tg, followed by surgical resection with a histopathological diagnosis. The results were retrospectively reviewed and analyzed. Results : Among 49 lesions, 47 were metastatic lymph nodes from thyroid carcinoma-46 papillary carcinoma and one follicular carcinoma-, one was a metastatic lymph node from submandibular gland adenocarcinoma, and one was an ectopic thyroid gland. In the 47 cases of thyroid carcinoma, the sensitivity of FNAC was 57.4%(27/47), whereas that of FNA-Tg was 76.6%(36/47). When both methods were combined, the sensitivity increased to 93.6%(44/47). Metastasis from submandibular gland adenocarcinoma was considered to be an example of a false positive from FNAC, whereas an ectopic thyroid gland was an FNA-Tg false positive. Three lesions were negative for both FNAC and FNA-Tg, although metastases were suspected by imaging studies and confirmed by histopathological diagnosis, which were consistent with examples of a false negative from both FNAC and FNA-Tg findings. Conclusions : FNAC reflects whether the lesion has malignant cells, whereas FNA-Tg reflects whether the lesion has thyroid-originated tissue that specifically secrets thyroglobulin. Therefore, FNAC and FNA-Tg are considered to be complementary to each other for the preoperative diagnosis of lymph node metastasis from thyroid carcinoma. FNA-Tg was validated to improve the preoperative diagnostic sensitivity especially when combined with FNAC, however, it is attended with the possibility of a false positive or negative finding, which requires caution in interpretation of the findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-726
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Otolaryngology of Japan
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • FNA-Tg
  • FNAC
  • Neck lymph node metastasis
  • Thyroid carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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