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Nodule Size Effect on Diagnostic Performance of Ultrasonography and Computed Tomography for Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma


Jia-wei LI, Cai Chang, Jia-ying Chen, Zhao-ting Shi and Min Chen   Pages 1 - 7 ( 7 )


Objective: To compare the abilities of ultrasonography (US) and Computed Tomography (CT) to identify calcifications and to predict probability of malignancy for Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma (PTC) and Papillary Thyroid Microcarcinoma (PTMC).

Methods: We reviewed 1008 cases of PTC/PTMC with calcifications reported by pre-operative US, CT, or post-operative pathology. The size of the thyroid nodule was obtained from the US report and the maximum diameter (d) was documented. According to the nodule size (d), the PTC and PTMC groups were each divided into two subgroups, as follows: large PTC group (d ≥ 2 cm), small PTC group (1 cm < d < 2 cm), large PTMC group (0.6 cm ≤ d ≤ 1 cm), and small PTMC group (d < 0.6 cm).

Results: In the 1008 patients, the ratio of females to males was 2.29 and the mean age was 40.9 years (standard deviation: 11.7 years). Of the 1008 records, 92.8% were found to have calcifications according to the US report, while 50.4% showed calcifications according to the CT report. This difference between US and CT reports was statistically significant (p < 0.0005). The percentages of US reports showing calcifications were similar for all four PTC and PTMC subgroups (93.7%, 94.3%, 92.1%, and 85.1%, respectively; p = 0.052), while the percentages of CT reports showing calcifications were significantly different among the PTC and PTMC subgroups (62.3%, 52.2%, 45.4%, and 31.3%, respectively; p < 0.0005). As for the prediction of malignancy, US was superior to CT in all four subgroups (large PTC group: 97.1% vs. 54.1%, small PTC group: 94.8% vs. 42.9%, large PTMC group: 97.2% vs. 32.0%, small PTMC group: 95.5% vs. 14.9%; p < 0.0005 for all pairwise comparisons). No significant difference was observed in terms of the ability of US to predict the malignancy of PTC versus PTMC (p = 0.31), while CT showed significant superiority in diagnosing PTC versus PTMC (p < 0.0005). The predictive value of CT for PTC declined as the nodule size decreased (p < 0.05 for all pairwise comparisons).

Conclusion: Our results showed that US detected calcifications and predicted the malignancy of all nodule sizes of thyroid papillary carcinoma equally well, while the performance of CT declined with the reduction of nodule size.


Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma; Papillary Thyroid Microcarcinoma; Calcification; Ultrasound; Computed Tomography


Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center, Department of Medical Ultrasound, Medical ultrasound in thyroid, breast, gynaecology and obstetrics , Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center, Department of Head and Neck Surgery, Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center, Department of Medical Ultrasound, Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center, Department of Medical Ultrasound

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