The Bethesda System for Reporting Thyroid Cytopathology is a standardized reporting system for classifying thyroid fine-needle aspiration results comprising of 6 diagnostic categories with unique risks of malignancy and recommendations for clinical management. The majority of thyroid nodules are benign; however, up to 30% of fine-needle aspiration of thyroid nodule results are equivocal. Until 2007, various diagnostic terms were used to classify such cases, including “atypical,” “indeterminate,” and rule-out or cannot exclude malignancy. A literature review of 13 original studies was conducted to evaluate whether utilization of the Bethesda System for Reporting Thyroid Cytopathology nomenclature represent an improvement over thyroid cytopathology reporting schemes used before 2007 in diagnosing thyroid malignancy. The sensitivity and specificity of thyroid fine-needle aspiration was high in the studies that assessed the measures. However, a selection bias exists and most studies do not include indeterminate diagnosis in their calculations. Although the Bethesda System for Reporting Thyroid Cytopathology recommends a repeat fine-needle aspiration to follow-up nondiagnostic specimens, in the majority of studies, an appreciable number of cases underwent follow-up surgical biopsy or thyroidectomy. The diagnostic category of atypia/follicular lesion of undetermined significance remains heterogenous in terms of usage and clinical outcome. The majority of the studies that utilize the Bethesda System for Reporting Thyroid Cytopathology in this literature review retrospectively reclassified thyroid fine-needle aspiration into the Bethesda System for Reporting Thyroid Cytopathology nomenclature with reported malignancy rates that are similar between cases reclassified as atypia/follicular lesion of undetermined significance and follicular neoplasm/suspicious for follicular neoplasm.
*Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
†School of Health Related Professions, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, NJ
The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.
Reprints: Zubair W. Baloch, MD, PhD, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, 3400 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).