A comparative study of 200 fine needle aspiration biopsies performed by clinicians and cytopathologists

Maoxin Wu, David E. Burstein, Songyang Yuan, Leslie A. Nurse, Arnold H. Szporn, David Zhang, Eric Genden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy is a useful tool in the diagnosis and management of suspicious masses. Most FNA biopsies of palpable masses can be performed without radioguidance by either clinicians or cytopathologists; however, it is unclear if there is a difference in the diagnostic yield of the procedure based on who performs the FNA. We reviewed the FNA biopsy results of 200 patients presenting with head and neck masses to a tertiary care center from 2003 to 2004. One hundred FNA biopsies were performed by clinicians and 100 performed by cytopathologists. Seventy-one underwent subsequent surgical biopsy or definitive surgery. Results of the FNA biopsies performed by the clinicians and the cytopathologists were compared based on the percentages of FNAs that were diagnostic, suspicious/suggestive, and nondiagnostic. Additionally, the pathology results of the 71 surgical biopsies or resections were compared with the preoperative FNA results. Of the 100 FNA biopsies performed by cytopathologists, 83% were diagnostic, 10% were suspicious/suggestive, and 7% were nondiagnostic. Of the 100 FNA biopsies performed by clinicians, 24% were diagnostic, 43% were suspicious/suggestive, and 33% were nondiagnostic. Cytopathologists achieved significantly better results (P < .0001, two-tailed t-test). Of the 71 cases with surgical follow up (50 by cytopathologists and 21 by clinicians), 94% of cases performed by cytopathologists and 67% of those performed by clinicians show agreement with final surgical pathology results. Overall, the FNAs performed by cytopathologists show significantly better diagnostic accuracy (P = .0002134, two-tailed t-test). FNA provides valuable information in the workup of suspicious head and neck masses. Cytopathologists may achieve significantly better results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1212-1215
Number of pages4
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Clinicians
  • Cytopathologists
  • FNA
  • Head and neck masses


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