Benign and Malignant Thyroid Nodules: US Differentiation—Multicenter Retrospective Study

Purpose: To retrospectively evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of ultrasonographic (US) criteria for the depiction of benign and malignant thyroid nodules by using tissue diagnosis as the reference standard.

Materials and Methods: This study had institutional review board approval, and informed consent was waived. From January 2003 through June 2003, 8024 consecutive patients had undergone thyroid US at nine affiliated hospitals. A total of 831 patients (716 women, 115 men; mean age, 49.5 years ± 13.8 [standard deviation]) with 849 nodules (360 malignant, 489 benign) that were diagnosed at surgery or biopsy were included in this study. Three radiologists retrospectively evaluated the following characteristics on US images: nodule size, presence of spongiform appearance, shape, margin, echotexture, echogenicity, and presence of microcalcification, macrocalcification, or rim calcification. A χ2 test and multiple regression analysis were performed. Sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values were obtained.

Results: Statistically significant (P < .05) findings of malignancy were a taller-than-wide shape (sensitivity, 40.0%; specificity, 91.4%), a spiculated margin (sensitivity, 48.3%; specificity, 91.8%), marked hypoechogenicity (sensitivity, 41.4%; specificity, 92.2%), microcalcification (sensitivity, 44.2%; specificity, 90.8%), and macrocalcification (sensitivity, 9.7%; specificity, 96.1%). The US findings for benign nodules were isoechogenicity (sensitivity, 56.6%; specificity, 88.1%; P < .001) and a spongiform appearance (sensitivity, 10.4%; specificity, 99.7%; P < .001). The presence of at least one malignant US finding had a sensitivity of 83.3%, a specificity of 74.0%, and a diagnostic accuracy of 78.0%. For thyroid nodules with a diameter of 1 cm or less, the sensitivity of microcalcifications was lower than that in larger nodules (36.6% vs 51.4%, P < .05).

Conclusion: Shape, margin, echogenicity, and presence of calcification are helpful criteria for the discrimination of malignant from benign nodules; the diagnostic accuracy of US criteria is dependent on tumor size.

© RSNA, 2008


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Article History

Published in print: 2008