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December 1989

Interobserver Variability in the Interpretation of Fine-Needle Aspiration Biopsy of Head and Neck Masses

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Otolaryngology (Drs Peters, Quinn, Hokanson, and Stiernberg and Ms McCracken) and Pathology (Drs Schnadig, Quinn, and Zaharopoulos and Ms Des Jardins), University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston.

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1989;115(12):1438-1442. doi:10.1001/archotol.1989.01860360040014

• Fine-needle aspiration biopsy is gaining acceptance as a clinically useful tool. We set out to evaluate the accuracy of fine-needle aspiration biopsy at our institution by measuring the interobserver variability in cytopathologic interpretation, and by measuring the agreement between cytopathologic and histologic diagnosis. In a prospective study, 253 aspirations were performed on head and neck masses by the otolaryngology service. Specimens were interpreted independently by two cytopathologists (V.J.S. and P.Z.), and interpretations were compared with the surgical histopathologic diagnosis when available. The interobserver variability between cytopathologists was 8% with a specificity of 96% and a sensitivity of 97%. We conclude that fine-needle aspiration biopsy is a safe and useful tool in the diagnosis of head and neck masses. In the diagnosis of epithelial cysts and squamous epithelial malignancies, fine-needle aspiration biopsy is as accurate as open biopsy.

(Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1989;115:1438-1442)

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