Anti-Thyroid Antibodies and TSH as Potential Markers of Thyroid Carcinoma and Aggressive Behavior in Patients with Indeterminate Fine-Needle Aspiration Cytology

  • Mohammadmehdi Adhami
  • Peter Michail
  • Apoorva Rao
  • Chhavi R. Bhatt
  • Simon Grodski
  • Jonathan W. Serpell
  • James C. LeeEmail author
Original Scientific Report



Indeterminate fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) imposes challenges in the management of thyroid nodules. This study aimed to examine whether preoperative anti-thyroid antibodies (Abs) and TSH are indicators of thyroid malignancy and aggressive behavior in patients with indeterminate FNAC.


This was a retrospective study of thyroidectomy patients from 2008 to 2016. We analyzed Abs and TSH levels, FNAC, and histopathology. Serum antibody levels were categorized as ‘Undetectable’, ‘In-range’ if detectable but within normal range, and ‘Elevated’ if above upper limit of normal. ‘Detectable’ levels referred to ‘In-range’ and ‘Elevated’ combined.


There were 531 patients included. Of 402 patients with preoperative FNAC, 104 (25.9%) had indeterminate cytology (Bethesda III–V). Of these, 39 (37.5%) were malignant and 65 (62.5%) benign on histopathology. In the setting of indeterminate FNAC, an increased risk of malignancy was associated with ‘Elevated’ thyroglobulin antibodies (TgAb) (OR 7.25, 95% CI 1.13–77.15, P = 0.01) and ‘Elevated’ thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOAb) (OR 6.79, 95% CI 1.23–45.88, P = 0.008). Similarly, while still ‘In-range’, TSH ≥ 1 mIU/L was associated with an increased risk of malignancy (OR 3.23, 95% CI 1.14–9.33, P = 0.01). In all patients with malignancy, the mean tumor size was 8 mm larger in those with TSH ≥ 1 mIU/L (P = 0.03); furthermore, in PTC patients, ‘Detectable’ TgAb conferred a 4 × risk of lymph node metastasis (95% CI 1.03–13.77, P = 0.02).


In this cohort, in indeterminate FNAC patients, Abs and TSH were associated with an increased risk of malignancy. Additionally, TgAb and TSH were potential markers of aggressive biology. As such, they may be diagnostic and prognostic adjuncts.



We would like to acknowledge all the surgeons who have contributed cases to the Monash University Endocrine Surgery Unit (MUESU) database.


No grants or funding received for this project.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Study approved by Alfred Health Human Research Ethics Committee (Project No: 185/19).


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Copyright information

© Société Internationale de Chirurgie 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mohammadmehdi Adhami
    • 1
  • Peter Michail
    • 1
  • Apoorva Rao
    • 1
  • Chhavi R. Bhatt
    • 1
  • Simon Grodski
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jonathan W. Serpell
    • 1
    • 2
  • James C. Lee
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of General Surgery, Monash University Endocrine Surgery UnitThe Alfred HospitalMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Department of SurgeryMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Department of SurgeryMonash HealthMelbourneAustralia

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