In order to provide useful diagnostic information for optimal clinical management, a fine needle aspiration (FNA) sample of a thyroid nodule should be representative of the underlying lesion. A good criterion of adequacy, when appropriately applied, ensures a low false-negative rate. It is worth emphasizing, however, that cellularity/adequacy is dependent not only on the technique of the aspirator, but also on the inherent nature of the lesion (e.g., solid vs. cystic). In general, the adequacy of a thyroid FNA is defined by both the quantity and quality of the cellular and colloid components.
An assessment of specimen adequacy is an integral component of an FNA interpretation because it conveys the degree of certainty with which one can rely on the result. The definition of an adequate specimen in thyroid FNA is subjective and controversial. While the quality of a specimen is irrefutably critical to proper interpretation, controversy is introduced when rigid numerical criteria for cell quantity are imposed. No study supports any specific follicular cellularity as applicable to all cases (benign and malignant, cystic and solid) with high diagnostic accuracy. Additionally, there is no consensus supporting a minimum number of FNA passes required to obtain adequate samples. High quality specimens contain sufficient cells representative of a lesion to allow the observer to confidently render an accurate interpretation. High quality requires proficient collection combined with excellent slide preparation, processing, and staining.
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