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Gilles Russ, Sophie Leboulleux, Laurence Leenhardt, and Laszlo Hegedüs

A thyroid incidentaloma is an unexpected, asymptomatic thyroid tumor fortuitously discovered during the investigation of an unrelated condition. The prevalence rate is 67% with ultrasonography (US) imaging, 15% with computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the neck, and 1-2% with fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography. In the absence of a history of external beam radiation or familial medullary thyroid cancer, the risk of malignancy ranges between 5 and 13% when discovered with US, CT or MRI, but is much higher if based on focal FDG uptake (30%). All patients with a thyroid incidentaloma, independent of the mode of detection, should undergo a dedicated neck US with risk stratification: US imaging allows a quantitative risk stratification of malignancy in thyroid nodules, named ‘reporting system' or ‘TIRADS' (thyroid imaging reporting and data system). The reported sensitivity ranges from 87 to 95% for the detection of carcinomas and the negative predictive value from 88 to 99.8%. We suggest that the indications for fine-needle aspiration be based mainly on size and US risk stratification. However, the diagnosis and workup of thyroid incidentalomas leads to superfluous surgery for benign conditions, and excess diagnosis and treatment of papillary microcarcinomas, the vast majority of which would cause no harm. Recognizing this must form the basis of any decision as to supplementary investigations and whether to offer therapy, in a close dialogue between patient and physician. The current use of minimally invasive nonsurgical ablation options, as alternatives to surgery, is highlighted.

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Gilles Russ, Steen J. Bonnema, Murat Faik Erdogan, Cosimo Durante, Rose Ngu, and Laurence Leenhardt

Thyroid ultrasound (US) is a key examination for the management of thyroid nodules. Thyroid US is easily accessible, noninvasive, and cost-effective, and is a mandatory step in the workup of thyroid nodules. The main disadvantage of the method is that it is operator dependent. Thyroid US assessment of the risk of malignancy is crucial in patients with nodules, in order to select those who should have a fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy performed. Due to the pivotal role of thyroid US in the management of patients with nodules, the European Thyroid Association convened a panel of international experts to set up European guidelines on US risk stratification of thyroid nodules. Based on a review of the literature and on the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American Thyroid Association, and Korean guidelines, the panel created the novel European Thyroid Imaging and Reporting Data System, called EU-TIRADS. This comprises a thyroid US lexicon; a standardized report; definitions of benign and low-, intermediate-, and high-risk nodules, with the estimated risks of malignancy in each category; and indications for FNA. Illustrated by numerous US images, the EU-TIRADS aims to serve physicians in their clinical practice, to enhance the interobserver reproducibility of descriptions, and to simplify communication of the results.

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Tamas Solymosi, Laszlo Hegedüs, Steen Joop Bonnema, Andrea Frasoldati, Laszlo Jambor, Gabor Laszlo Kovacs, Enrico Papini, Karoly Rucz, Gilles Russ, Zsolt Karanyi, and Endre V. Nagy

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.

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Giovanni Mauri, Laszlo Hegedüs, Steven Bandula, Roberto Luigi Cazzato, Agnieszka Czarniecka, Oliver Dudeck, Laura Fugazzola, Romana Netea-Maier, Gilles Russ, Göran Wallin, and Enrico Papini

The growing detection of papillary thyroid microcarcinomas (PTMCs) is paralleled by an increase in surgical procedures. Due to the frequent indolent nature, cost, and risk of surgery, active surveillance (AS) and ultrasound-guided minimally invasive treatments (MITs) are in suitable cases of incidental PTMC proposed as alternatives to thyroidectomy. Surgery and radioiodine are the established treatments for relapsing cervical differentiated thyroid carcinoma (DTC) metastases. But radioiodine refractoriness, risk of surgical complications, adverse influence on quality of life, or declining repeat surgery have led to AS and MIT being considered as alternatives for slow-growing DTC nodal metastases. Also, for distant radioiodine-refractory metastases not amenable to surgery, MIT is proposed as part of a multimodality therapeutic approach. The European Thyroid Association and the Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiological Society of Europe commissioned these guidelines for the appropriate use of MIT. Based on a systematic PubMed search, an evidence-based approach was applied, and both knowledge and practical experience of the panelists were incorporated to develop the manuscript and the specific recommendations. We recommend that when weighing between surgery, radioiodine, AS, or MIT for DTC, a multidisciplinary team including members with expertise in interventional radiology assess the demographic, clinical, histological, and imaging characteristics for appropriate selection of patients eligible for MIT. Consider TA in low-risk PTMC patients who are at surgical risk, have short life expectancy, relevant comorbidities, or are unwilling to undergo surgery or AS. As laser ablation, radiofrequency ablation, and microwave ablation are similarly safe and effective thermal ablation (TA) techniques, the choice should be based on the specific competences and resources of the centers. Use of ethanol ablation and high-intensity focused ultrasound is not recommended for PTMC treatment. Consider MIT as an alternative to surgical neck dissection in patients with radioiodine refractory cervical recurrences who are at surgical risk or decline further surgery. Factors that favor MIT are previous neck dissection, presence of surgical complications, small size metastases, and <4 involved latero-cervical lymph nodes. Consider TA among treatment options in patients with unresectable oligometastatic or oligoprogressive distant metastases to achieve local tumor control or pain palliation. Consider TA, in combination with bone consolidation and external beam radiation therapy, as a treatment option for painful bone metastases not amenable to other established treatments.