Semiquantitative assessment of cytomorphologic features can predict mutation status of thyroid nodules with indeterminate cytologic diagnosis

Maryam Shahi, Stephen J. Bloechl, Rachel I. Vogel, Rupendra Shrestha, Hannah R. Krigman, Maria Evasovich, Lynn A. Burmeister, Khalid Amin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Molecular diagnostics increasingly direct the management of thyroid nodules with an indeterminate cytologic diagnosis. This study was undertaken to correlate cytomorphologic features with the molecular profiles in an effort to identify features predictive of molecular aberrations. One hundred eighty-nine thyroid nodules with an indeterminate thyroid cytology diagnosis (atypia of undetermined significance, suspicious for follicular lesion, and suspicious for malignancy) with an adequate sample submitted for targeted mutation detection by polymerase chain reaction or next-generation sequencing were assessed semiquantitatively for the following cytomorphologic parameters: cellularity, Hurthle cell changes, microfollicles, nuclear elongation, nuclear grooves, nuclear enlargement, nuclear atypia, extent of atypia, and colloid. Based on this evaluation, a cumulative cytomorphologic score (CCS) and a more simplified overall atypia score (OAS) were assigned to each case. Associations among mutational status and each of the aforementioned parameters, CCS, and OAS were determined. Of the 189 nodules with indeterminate cytology, 63 (33.3%) harbored at least 1 mutation. RAS and BRAF were the most common mutations, found in 34 (18.0%) and 13 (6.9%) cases, respectively. Both CCS and OAS were highly associated with the presence of all mutations (P < .0001) and with the presence of BRAF and RAS mutations in particular (all P < .01). Semiquantitative assessment of various cytomorphologic features in indeterminate thyroid cytology cases showed a strong association of higher OAS and CCS and incidence of BRAF and RAS mutations. Using a more objective approach to thyroid cytology can potentially decrease the overall number of indeterminate diagnoses, leading to fewer repeat procedures and unnecessary surgical procedures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-89
Number of pages9
JournalHuman pathology
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • Atypia of undetermined significance
  • Follicular lesions of undetermined significance
  • Mutational profile
  • Suspicious for malignancy
  • Thyroid FNA
  • Thyroid nodules

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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