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How good are we at fine needle aspiration cytology?

  • S Carr (a1), V Visvanathan (a1), T Hossain (a1), S Uppal (a1), P Chengot (a1) and C J Woodhead (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 20 April 2010

To determine the accuracy of fine needle aspiration cytology conducted within a standard ENT out-patients service (rather than a one-stop neck lump clinic), and also to assess the value of ultrasound guidance during fine needle aspiration cytology.


Retrospective study of all patients undergoing fine needle aspiration cytology of a neck lump, from 2005 to 2008 in Leeds teaching hospitals.

Main outcome measures:

Accuracy of fine needle aspiration cytology, compared with the corresponding histology report of the original surgical specimen, and non-diagnostic fine needle aspiration cytology rates with and without ultrasound.


Fine needle aspiration cytology yielded the following respective sensitivity, specificity and accuracy rates: 85, 91 and 87 per cent for lymph nodes; 80, 93 and 89 for salivary glands; and 52, 80 and 69 for thyroid. The proportion of non-diagnostic procedures was 28 per cent, both with and without ultrasound guidance.


Cytologist-led fine needle aspiration cytology would have reduced the time to diagnosis and the number of clinic visits per patient. Fine needle aspiration cytology was accurate for predicting malignancy in salivary gland and lymph node lesions, and for diagnosing lymph node pathology. Study results did not support the use of ultrasound guidance during fine needle aspiration cytology.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Mr Simon Carr, ENT Department, Leeds General Infirmary, Great George Street, Leeds LS1 3EX, UK. E-mail:
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Presented as a poster at the British Academic Conference of Otolaryngologists, 8–10 July 2009, Liverpool, UK.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

2A Sadr , P Anand , E Gruber , D Courtney . ‘One-stop’ head and neck clinic: does it make a difference? Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2007;137:221

3A Kishore , CJ Stewart , GW McGarry , K MacKenzie . One-stop neck lump clinic: phase 2 of audit. How are we doing? Clin Otolaryngol 2001;26:495–7

5IA Robinson , NJ Cozens . Does a joint ultrasound-guided cytology clinic optomize the cytological evaluation of head and neck masses? Clin Radiol 1999;54:312–16

6J Addams-Williams , D Watkins , S Owen , N Williams , C Fielder . Non-thyroid neck lumps: appraisal of the role of fine needle aspiration cytology. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 2009;266:411–15

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  • EISSN: 1748-5460
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