Evaluation of ultrasound and fine-needle aspiration in the assessment of head and neck lesions

  • Lukas HorvathEmail author
  • Marcel Kraft
Head and Neck



Neck masses of uncertain character need further investigation through imaging and tissue sampling. This is the most extensive study in the literature of clinician-operated ultrasound and fine-needle aspiration (US + FNA) of the head and neck with histological verification, itemized into organ system. The purpose of the present study was to comprehensively evaluate the combination of US + FNA in the assessment of various kinds of head and neck lesions in the hand of the clinician in one single study.


A total of 408 histologically verified head and neck lesions in 376 consecutive patients undergoing all three diagnostic steps (US, FNA, US + FNA) were included. Excisional biopsy or core-needle biopsy served as a gold standard. US and FNA were evaluated alone and in combination to distinguish between malignant and benign lesions as well as to establish an approximate and specific diagnosis. Each calculation was itemized by organ system.


In detecting malignancy, US + FNA showed a significantly higher accuracy (97% vs 86% and 92%) than US and FNA alone. An approximate diagnosis was established in 93%, and a specific diagnosis in 88%, which was significantly better than that of US and FNA alone.


US + FNA is suited for an efficient evaluation of head and neck masses. This combined method should be the first line of investigation in such lesions before any other imaging and/or sampling methods. While discrepancies in diagnostic findings potentially occur, the key is the interpretation of the package (US and cytologic findings, clinical information) made in one consultation by one clinician to proceed in proper decision making regarding an adequate treatment plan. Consequently US + FNA belong to the standard armamentarium of the otolaryngologist.


Diagnostic imaging Tissue sampling Lymph nodes Soft tissue Thyroid Salivary gland 



The authors thank Mrs. Katherine Horvath for the correction of their manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All methods were performed in accordance with the relevant guidelines and regulations. The study protocol met the ethical standards of the Declaration of Helsinki in its current version.

Informed consent

Informed consent to perform US, FNA and biopsy was obtained from all individual participants or their guardians.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck SurgeryKantonsspital BasellandLiestalSwitzerland

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