Objective: Image-guided interventional ultrasound (US) techniques represent diagnostic and therapeutic tools for non-surgical management of thyroid nodular disease. We sought to investigate the attitude of European Thyroid Association (ETA) members towards the use of minimally invasive techniques (MIT) in diagnosis/therapy of symptomatic nodular goitre. Methods: ETA members were invited to participate in an online survey investigating the use of MIT in benign and malignant thyroid nodular disease. Of 865 invited members, 221 (25.5%) completed the survey. The respondents were from 40 countries; 139 (74.7%) were from European countries. Results: Respondents personally performed thyroid US (91.6%), Fine needle aspiration (FNA; 75.3%), ethanol ablation (EA; 22.1%), core needle biopsy (CNB; 11%) and thermal treatments (4.8%). When skills and/or technology were unavailable, only 13.4% referred patients “often” or “always” to other centres with specific expertise in this field. Surgery was the preferred first option in patients with recurrent cysts, 4.0 cm benign nodules, local (radioiodine-avid or non-avid) lymph node metastases, or papillary cancers <1.0 cm. For autonomously functioning nodules radioactive iodine treatment was the preferred choice, followed by surgery. Thermal ablation (TA) was the preferred option only for a 4 cm benign nodule in old patients with comorbidities. Conclusions: US, US-guided FNA and surgery were available to nearly all respondents, while MIT was not. CNB and EA were employed only by about 1/3 of the respondents and TA procedures were available and personally performed only by a minority. For most thyroid lesions, surgery was the preferred option versus thermal therapies. The ETA needs to develop guidelines and establish teaching to overcome geographic inequality and promote the use of MIT as a valid therapy option in appropriate cases.
Standard therapeutic approaches for benign thyroid lesions that warrant intervention are surgery for cold and either surgery or radioiodine for autonomously functioning thyroid nodules (AFTN). Image-guided thermal ablation (TA) procedures are increasingly proposed as therapy options for selected clinical conditions. Due to mounting scientific evidence and widening availability, ETA considered it appropriate to develop guidelines for the use of TA in adult patients. TA procedures are well tolerated, but a dedicated training of the operators is required and information on possible complications needs to be shared with the patients. The following factors should be considered when weighing between observation, surgery, and TA for benign thyroid nodules. In solid non-hyperfunctioning nodules, TA induces a decrease in thyroid nodule volume, paralleled by improvement in symptoms. Nodule re-growth is possible over time and may necessitate repeat treatment, or surgery, in a dialogue with the patient. In AFTN, radioactive iodine is the first-line treatment, but TA may be considered in young patients with small AFTN due to higher probability of restoring normal thyroid function and avoidance of irradiation. In cystic nodules, ethanol ablation (EA) is the most effective and least expensive treatment. TA may be considered for cystic lesions that relapse after EA or have a significant residual solid component following drainage and EA. TA should be restricted to benign lesions that cause symptoms or cosmetic concern. Presently, laser and radiofrequency ablation are the most thoroughly assessed techniques, with similar satisfactory clinical results. Microwaves and high-intensity focused ultrasound therapy options remain to be fully evaluated.
Background: While thyroid nodules are frequent in endocrine clinical practice, patients are often asymptomatic and euthyroid, and death is rare in cases of malignancy. Objectives: To evaluate the perception of current international guidelines regarding thyroid nodule management among Italian endocrinologists, and to compare daily clinical practice with suggested recommendations. Methods: Italian Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AME) members were invited to participate in a Web-based survey. Results: A total of 566 physicians responded. About 50% had read the full text of the guidelines. Over half appreciated the suggested ultrasound (US) risk categories. Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) was obtained more frequently than recommended. Follow-up of a cytologically benign nodule was largely performed according to the guidelines. Molecular testing would be most commonly requested when cytology reports showed atypia of undetermined significance/follicular lesion of undetermined significance (AUS/FLUS) (TIR3A for Italian System). Iodine and/or levothyroxine were largely prescribed for cytologically benign asymptomatic nodules. Laser/radiofrequency ablation and percutaneous ethanol injection were commonly considered as alternatives to surgery (46.2 and 71.4%, respectively). Conclusions: Efforts are needed to make the guidelines more user-friendly and to encourage the use of codified risk categories in thyroid US reports. FNA indications remain a matter of debate as FNA is obtained in clinical practice more often than is recommended. Current US follow-up modalities for a benign nodule are correct, but probably could be performed less frequently without any harm. Molecular testing, if accessible, would be helpful in guiding clinicians' strategies in cases of AUS/FLUS-TIR3A cytologic results. Nonsurgical procedures are favorably embraced.
Background: Thyroid nodule image reporting and data systems (TIRADS) provide the indications for fine-needle aspiration (FNA) based on a combination of nodule sonographic features and size. We compared the TIRADS-based recommendations for FNA with those based on the personal expertise of qualified US investigators in the diagnosis of thyroid malignancy. Methods: Seven highly experienced ultrasound (US) investigators from 4 countries evaluated, online, the US video recordings of 123 histologically verified thyroid nodules. Technical resources provided the operators with a diagnostic approach close to the real-world practice. Altogether, 4,305 TIRADS scores were computed. The combined diagnostic potential of TIRADS (TIRSYS) and the personal recommendations of the investigators (PERS) were compared against 3 possible goals: to recognize all malignant lesions (allCA), nonpapillary plus non-pT1 papillary cancers (nPnT1PCA), or stage II-IV cancers (st2-4CA). Results: For allCA and nPnT1PCA, TIRSYS had lower sensitivity than PERS (69.8 vs. 87.2 and 83.5 vs. 92.6%, respectively, p <0.01), while in st2-4CA the sensitivities were the same (99.1 vs. 98.6% and TIRSYS vs. PERS, respectively). TIRSYS had a higher specificity than PERS in all 3 types of cancers (p < 0.001). PERS recommended FNA in a similar proportion of lesions smaller or larger than 1 cm (76.9 vs. 82.7%; ns). Conclusions: Recommendations for FNA based on the investigators’ US expertise demonstrated a better sensitivity for thyroid cancer in the 2 best prognostic groups, while TIRADS methodology showed superior specificity over the full prognostic range of cancers. Thus, personal experience provided more accurate diagnoses of malignancy, missing a lower number of small thyroid cancers, but the TIRADS approach resulted in a similar accuracy for the diagnosis of potentially aggressive lesions while sparing a relevant number of FNAs. Until it is not clearly stated what the goal of the US evaluation is, that is to diagnose all or only clinically relevant thyroid cancers, it cannot be determined whether one diagnostic approach is superior to the other for recommending FNA.
Thyroid nodule ultrasound characteristics are used as an indication for fine-needle aspiration cytology, usually as the basis for Thyroid Imaging Reporting and Data System (TIRADS) score calculation. Few studies on interobserver variation are available, all of which are based on analysis of preselected still ultrasound images and often lack surgical confirmation.
After the blinded online evaluation of video recordings of the ultrasound examinations of 47 consecutive malignant and 76 consecutive benign thyroid lesions, 7 experts from 7 thyroid centers answered 17 TIRADS-related questions. Surgical histology was the reference standard. Interobserver variations of each ultrasound characteristic were compared using Gwet’s AC1 inter-rater coefficients; higher values mean better concordance, the maximum being 1.0.
On a scale from 0.0 to 1.0, the Gwet’s AC1 values were 0.34, 0.53, 0.72, and 0.79 for the four most important features in decision-making, i.e. irregular margins, microcalcifications, echogenicity, and extrathyroidal extension, respectively. The concordance in the discrimination between mildly/moderately and very hypoechogenic nodules was 0.17. The smaller the nodule size the better the agreement in echogenicity, and the larger the nodule size the better the agreement on the presence of microcalcifications. Extrathyroidal extension was correctly identified in just 45.8% of the cases.
Examination of video recordings, closely simulating the real-world situation, revealed substantial interobserver variation in the interpretation of each of the four most important ultrasound characteristics. In view of the importance for the management of thyroid nodules, unambiguous and widely accepted definitions of each nodule characteristic are warranted, although it remains to be investigated whether this diminishes observer variation.