Flow cytometric analysis of fine needle aspirates is affected by tumor subtype, but not by anatomic location nor technique

Laura M. Wake, Christopher J. VandenBussche, Syed Z. Ali, Nina D. Wagner-Johnston, Kathleen H. Burns, Christopher D. Gocke, Milena Vuica-Ross, Michael J. Borowitz, Amy S. Duffield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Current clinical practices are shifting towards utilizing less invasive biopsy techniques, including fine needle aspiration (FNA) and needle core biopsies. If a patient has a suspected hematologic malignancy, a portion of the FNA sample is typically submitted for flow cytometry (FC) analysis, providing valuable immunophenotypic data. Methods: FNA specimens were identified via a pathology database search. All cases were morphologic evaluated and a subset of cases were analyzed by FC. Results: 245 hematologic FNA specimens were identified; 84% of these cases had an adequate number of cells for FC analysis, and an unequivocal morphologic diagnosis (benign or malignant) was rendered in 85%. The percentage of cases with an unequivocal diagnosis was statistically significantly higher in those with associated FC than with those without FC (90% vs 58%). Neither FNA technique nor anatomic site affected the likelihood of obtaining an adequate sample for FC analysis and/or rendering a definitive morphologic or unequivocal FC diagnosis. Likewise, tumor subtype did not affect the likelihood of acquiring enough cells for FC analysis, but occasionally resulted in equivocal FC diagnoses or discordant FNA and FC diagnoses. Aggressive B-cell lymphomas and Hodgkin lymphomas were significantly less likely to be detected by FC as compared to low-grade B-cell lymphomas. Discrepancies between FNA and FC diagnoses occurred in 13% of cases. The majority of discrepancies (78%) included FC false negatives, while only 22% of cases had atypical or positive FC with negative FNA. Conclusions: FNA with associated FC is a powerful diagnostic technique; however, lymphoma subtype may affect diagnostic sensitivity by FC, and therefore, discordant FNA and FC results should be interpreted with caution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)538-546
Number of pages9
JournalDiagnostic cytopathology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • FNA
  • fine needle aspirates
  • flow cytometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology


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