An investigation into false-negative transthoracic fine needle aspiration and core biopsy specimens

Douglas M. Minot, Elizabeth A. Gilman, Marie Christine Aubry, Jesse S. Voss, Sarah G. Van Epps, Delores J. Tuve, Andrew P. Sciallis, Michael R. Henry, Diva R. Salomao, Peter Lee, Stephanie K. Carlson, Amy C. Clayton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Transthoracic fine needle aspiration (TFNA)/core needle biopsy (CNB) under computed tomography (CT) guidance has proved useful in the assessment of pulmonary nodules. We sought to determine the TFNA false-negative (FN) rate at our institution and identify potential causes of FN diagnoses. Medical records were reviewed from 1,043 consecutive patients who underwent CT-guided TFNA with or without CNB of lung nodules over a 5-year time period (2003-2007). Thirty-seven FN cases of "negative" TFNA/CNB with malignant outcome were identified with 36 cases available for review, of which 35 had a corresponding CNB. Cases were reviewed independently (blinded to original diagnosis) by three pathologists with 15 age- and sexmatched positive and negative controls. Diagnosis (i.e., nondiagnostic, negative or positive for malignancy, atypical or suspicious) and qualitative assessments were recorded. Consensus diagnosis was suspicious or positive in 10 (28%) of 36 TFNA cases and suspicious in 1 (3%) of 35 CNB cases, indicating potential interpretive errors. Of the 11 interpretive errors (including both suspicious and positive cases), 8 were adenocarcinomas, 1 squamous cell carcinoma, 1 metastatic renal cell carcinoma, and 1 lymphoma. The remaining 25 FN cases (69.4%) were considered sampling errors and consisted of 7 adenocarcinomas, 3 nonsmall cell carcinomas, 3 lymphomas, 2 squamous cell carcinomas, and 2 renal cell carcinomas. Interpretive and sampling error cases were more likely to abut the pleura, while histopathologically, they tended to be necrotic and air-dried. The overall FN rate in this patient cohort is 3.5% (1.1% interpretive and 2.4% sampling errors).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1063-1068
Number of pages6
JournalDiagnostic cytopathology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Computed tomography
  • Cytopathology
  • Diagnosis
  • Lung
  • Neoplasm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology


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