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Both Ultrasound Features and Nuclear Atypia are Associated with Malignancy in Thyroid Nodules with Atypia of Undetermined Significance

Naseem Eisa MD, Ahsan Khan BS, Mutaal Akhter BS, Molly Fensterwald BS, Saba Saleem BS, Ghaneh Fananapazir MD, Michael J. Campbell MD
Endocrine Tumors
Volume 25, Issue 13 / December , 2018



The optimal management of thyroid nodules that undergo fine-needle aspiration (FNA) with findings of atypia of undetermined significance (AUS) is unclear. Categorizing nodules by AUS subtype and ultrasound characteristics may improve risk stratification. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to evaluate the association between AUS subtype and ultrasound features on risk of malignancy (ROM).


We performed a review of all patients with a thyroid nodule who underwent an FNA at our institution between January 2010 and November 2015. Patients with AUS were divided into groups with (1) nuclear atypia, (2) architectural atypia, or (3) Hurthle cell atypia. Their ultrasound features were assessed using the American Thyroid Association (ATA) thyroid nodule sonographic patterns. We conducted a univariate and multivariable analysis to determine the association between AUS subtype and other variables of interest with ROM.


Of the 3428 thyroid nodules that underwent FNA, 237 (6.9%) had AUS. Of the 97 surgically resected nodules, 67 (69%) were benign and 30 (31%) were malignant. On univariate analysis nuclear atypia (p < 0.01) was associated with a thyroid malignancy. On multivariable analysis, both ATA high-risk ultrasound features (p = 0.04, odds ratio [OR] 3.68) and nuclear atypia (p < 0.01, OR 11.8) were independently associated with a final diagnosis of thyroid carcinoma.


Nuclear atypia and ATA high-risk ultrasound features are useful in identifying patients with AUS that are at a higher risk of thyroid malignancy. Surgeons should take these factors into consideration when evaluating patients with AUS.

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