KBB-Forum 2013 , Cilt 12 , Sayı 2


Ümit TUNCEL, MD1; Hasan Mete İNANÇLI, MD2; Melek UYAR, MD1; Gülay BİLİR DİLEK MD3
1A. Yurtarslan Onkoloji Eğitim ve Araştırma Hastanesi, KBB Kliniği, Ankara, Turkey
2Yakın Doğu Üniversitesi, Tıp Fakültesi, KBB Anabilim Dalı, Lefkoşa, Kuzey Kıbrıs TC
3A. Yurtarslan Onkoloji Eğitim ve Araştırma Hastanesi, Patoloji, Ankara, Turkey


Objective: Fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) results were compared with the results of excisional biopsy to investigate the diagnostic value. Results were analyzed and compared in literature.

Patients and Methods: During 2005-2009, 145 patients with palpable neck mass were included in our study. Cytological diagnoses of patients were compared with final histology results.

Results: Mean age of patients was 51.5 (14 to 96 years). While fine-needle aspiration cytology results were reported as malign in 72 (49.7%) patients, 93 (64.1%) specimen results were reported as malign. Inadequate material rate was 9.7%. The sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, negative predictive value and accuracy values were determined as 83.1%, 91.9%, 95.8%, 70.8, and 85.8% respectively.

Conclusion: We conclude that fine-needle aspiration cytology applied in ENT clinics without guide is still valuable and highly useful diagnostic tool in differential diagnosis of neck masses. The advantages of this technique considered much cheaper and can be applied without losing time.


Neck mass could be signs of several diseases. It is classified three main groups as congenital, inflammatory and neoplastic. It can be seen in all age groups.[1-3]. Quick and accurate diagnosis is essential for evaluation of each patient admitted to ENT clinic with neck mass. The story of the patient, clinical findings and radiological evaluation results provide valuable information in the diagnosis of neck masses, but in many cases, the treatment protocol is needed in order to identify pathological diagnosis. Patients' age and localization of the mass can help to clinician in the differential diagnosis to assess the neck masses. Any neck mass in adult patients must be approached as being neoplastic and possibly malignant. In fact, these patients usually refer to physician with a fear of cancer. Appropriate approach, successfully and timely diagnosis will be very important in these patients[2,4]. The head and neck masses that did not respond to antibiotic treatment often need to biopsy.

Excisional biopsy often requires hospitalization, whereas outpatient FNAC is a good alternative method for the diagnosis of neck masses. The first time FNAC described by Kun in the 1930s, as and brought into routine practice by Martin et al. Franzen et al have developed the technique of FNAC with 20-22 gauge needles in its current meaning in the 1950s at the Karolinska Institute. Most of the head and neck mass is superficial and FNAC can be easily applied in ENT clinics[5]. It is founded a simple and inexpensive method in such cases[4-6-7]. In addition it causes to minimal trauma and carries virtually no risk of complications even for children[8].

In this study we evaluated the patients who admitted to our clinic with complaints of neck masses and underwent FNAC. Cytological and histopathological results of patients were compared in terms of the sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy. The results are compared with similar studies in the literature and discussed.


One hundred forty-five patients who admitted to our ENT clinic with palpable neck mass and applied FNAC before surgical excision were retrospectively analyzed in between July 2005 and January 2009. Eighty-nine (61.4%) males and 56 females (38.6%) were included to our study. Patients' mean age was 51.5 years (range: 14 to 96 years). FNAC was performed all patients in our ENT clinic by different physicians. None of the patients applied to imaging-guided biopsy included in the study.The patients who have been thyroid and glandular pathologies were excluded in study.

Fine-needle aspiration biopsy method (FNAC):
The skin on the mass is cleaned with betadine solution. Then FNAC is carried out using a 10 cc disposable syringe with a 22-caliber single needle. Local anesthesia is not required. Each aspiration was performed two times on the mass. After suction of the aspiration material, the taken to the air with a syringe extruded to lam and then at least 3 smear preparations were prepared. Smears were fixed with alcohol and stained by the method of Papanicolea. None of the patients occurred complications after this procedure. All cytological examinations performed by a pathologist experienced in cytopathology and reported by same pathology department.

Diagnosis and the localization of the neck mass in all patients were evaluated. The pre-operative FNAC results were compared with post-operative pathological findings in each patient. The cytopathological findings were categorized as malignant, suspicious malignant, non-diagnostic material and benign. Pathology results of the specimens were categorized as malign and benign.

Statistical analysis:
Statistical analysis was performed by Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) 11.5 software (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, United States). Continuous data were shown as mean ± standard deviation; otherwise, nominal data were expressed as number of cases and percentage values (%). Sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive value and diagnostic accuracy values for FNAC were calculated to determine the diagnostic performance using the method of Galen and Gambino [9].


The distribution of neck masses in our patients are shown in Table I. The most frequent mass locations were found to be level II (36.3%), level III (25.5%) and the sub-mandibular region (19.3%), respectively. According to the results of the biopsy specimens, 52 (35%) samples were found to be benign and 93 (65%) samples were found to be malign (Table II). The most frequent pathological result was found to be metastasis of squamous cell carcinoma (24.1%). While the FNAC results reported as benign in 48 (33.1%) patients, 72 (49.7%) samples were malign. Blood cells, lymphocytes or macrophages were obtained with FNAC in 11 patients (7.6%). Iinadequate material (a cellular smear) was obtained with FNAC in 14 (9, 7%) patients who included into the study (Table III).

Table 1: Distribution of the head and neck masses

Table 2: Pathology results of the specimens

Table 3: Results of the fine-needle aspiration cytology

The sensitivity, specificity, accuracy, PPV and NPV for FNAC are shown in Table IV. It is observed that the sensitivity and specificity values of the FNAC are 83.1% and 91.9%, respectively (Table IV). The diagnostic accuracy of FNAC is found to be 85.8% in our study.

Table 4: FNAC performance in our study


FNAC is the most widely accepted procedure for the diagnosis of neck mass. It uses are listed as follows: (a) making the differential diagnosis of benign and malignant lesions (b) verify the recurrence of neoplastic disease (c) verify a suspected malignancy (d) in patients with inoperable to document malignancy (e) determine the extent of disease or metastases of malignant (f) for the show infectious agents and to obtain material for culture[1]. It is not a surgical procedure, but it helps to differentiate between a cancerous and noncancerous diseases.

FNAC is a quick procedure which requires only a small amount of equipment, basic clinical conditions and performed easily in most cases; it is completed at the first outpatient visit. FNAC have wide usage area but the user has difficulty in the following cases: any masses close to vital structures, non-palpable lesions only monitored radiological and, tissue lesions located with area treated via surgery or radiotherapy previously[10]. Small and deep-seated masses is reduces the success of FNAC technique. However, in such cases, ultrasonography or magnetic radiological imaging technique increases the FNAC's success[11]. Even so, FNAC is routinely applied in patients who had palpable neck mass in our clinic. Although the cause of any neck mass is usually benign a lot of series, majority of our patients are malign in our hospital. So, FNAC results were reported as malignant in 49.7% of patients and also specimen results are reported as malignant in 64.1% of patients in our study.

The correct technique for performing FNAC is described elsewhere[10,11,12,13]. The reliability and simplicity of FNAC is one of the important features of this technique. This tecnique is learned very easy by physician. It is performed without the need for local anesthesia outpatient conditions. The risk of complication is very low. None of the 145 patients was not bleeding problem. After the procedure, only packing in 1-2 minutes found sufficient to prevent the hematoma formation. Although FNAC has high accuracy rate and very sensitive, continued clinical suspicion is a problem in some patients with negative FNAC. If physician suspects malignancy clinically, FNAC repetition is made particularly for adults over the age of 40. In our study, the samples of 25 patients (17.2%) were reported as non-diagnostic material with FNAC. Blood cells, lymphocytes or macrophages were obtained with FNAC in 11/25 patients. Inadequate material (a cellular smear) was obtained with FNAC in 14/25 patients who included into the study. When the FNAC samples are reported as being non-diagnostic, then a repeat aspiration should be performed. An open biopsy is referred in only the absolute necessary cases to minimize the disadvantages of this process[14]. In our study, FNAC was repeated in these patients. Per cent 32.0 (8/25) of these patients were diagnosed malignity with the second FNAC. Our experiences suggest that repeating FNAC may lead to an increased likelihood of detecting existing carcinomas. In this patient group, 3/25 (12%) patients were diagnosed with lymphoma via open biopsy. The average age of these patients was 64.6 (43-83 years). Although there are omitting despite the 2 times FNAC, open biopsy should be performed.

Williams et al[6] were reported of FNAC results in 384 patients. Although sensitivity, specificity, PPV and NPV values were identified as 93%, 90%, 94% and 88 % respectively, non-diagnostic FNAC result was reported as 34 %. They also were reviewed FNAC results in patients with neck-lumps (15 studies) in the literature between 1979 and 2007. Average value of all non-diagnostic material results was 19.4 among 3068 cases. But their non-diagnostic material rates are higher than the average of literature (34% of 384 patients). Feldman et al[15] were studied in 229 patients with neck lumps and they were discussed FNAC results. Non-diagnostic FNAC rate was reported as 9%. Draper et al[16] were reported non-diagnostic rate as 20% in 192 patients with neck mass. In our study, non-diagnostic material rate was 17.2 %. But, acellular smear (inadequate material) rate was 9.7%. Our results were found to be consistent with the literature. We concluded that adequately trained physicians and also experienced cythopathologist with regular workload is essential to achieve good results with FNAC method. FNAC is applied routinely by specialists and assistants in our clinic.

The authors concluded that the use of FNAC for diagnosing lymphoma may misguide the treatment[17]. Pathology specimen results in 25 patients were reported as lymphoma in our study. In the FNAC results of these patients; two of them were malignant, 12 were atypical lymphoid cells, and four were considered as Hodgkin lymphoma (totally: 18/25, 72%). Even if the lymphoma identified by FNAC, it can be difficult to sub classify the type of lymphoma and open biopsy was performed in these groups to obtain the optimal oncologic outcome in our study. But incisional biopsy was sufficient in these group patients, further surgery had been unnecessary with the diagnosis of FNAC.

Considering of the results of English literature about this issue, it has been found that there is sensitivity from 86.4 % to 99.0 %, specificity from 90.0 % to 98.0%, PPV from 89.0 % to 97.0 %, NPV from 67.0 % to 98.0 %[17-21]. It has been found that there is sensitivity from 71,4 % to 93,8 %, specificity from 90.9 % to 100 %, accuracy from 81,9 % to 96,3 via non-guide FNAC in the several Turkish literature[10,11,13,15]. In our study, we found the sensitivity and specificity values of the FNAC to be 83.1% and 91.9%, respectively. On the other hand, it was found that PPV was 95.8%, NPV was 70.8%, and diagnostic accuracy was 85.8%.The obtained values were consistent with the literature in our study.

FNAC has been confirmed to be a safe and effective technique with a high diagnostic accuracy for carcinomas and other lesions in this study. It is easy to perform and is least invasive. The results are extremely satisfactory in good hands. The exact cytological diagnosis is available before definitive surgery is planned[22]. It is a cost effective procedure. So It is recommended as a first line of investigation in palpable neck masses. We believe that FNAC can be easily chosen instead of imaging-guided biopsy in ENT practice in patients had palpable masses, especially. The diagnosis is readily known to the clinician and appropriate treatment modalities can be discussed with the patient. FNAC should be performed in any patient considered to be at particular risk of carcinoma. To ensure that an accurate result is achieved, it is important that the ENT surgeon, pathologist or oncologist who performs continuously this procedure has experience in FNAC.


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