Use of core biopsy in diagnosing cervical lymphadenopathy: a viable alternative to surgical excisional biopsy of lymph nodes?

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES

Lymphoma often presents with a neck mass and while fine-needle aspiration cytology may be suggestive, tissue biopsy is required for reliable diagnosis and classification of a lymphoma that is sufficient to deliver the correct treatment for the patient. Traditionally, excisional biopsy of a lymph node has been the standard method of tissue sampling, providing ample tissue for assessment. However, this requires theatre time, and preceding fine-needle aspiration cytology, which may incur a delay. With careful use of tissue, coupled with advances in immunohistochemical and molecular investigative techniques, core biopsy provides a possible alternative to traditional fine-needle aspiration and excisional biopsy. In this study, we aimed to determine the efficacy of diagnosing neck masses.

METHOD

A retrospective analysis was performed of patients being investigated for a neck mass who were undergoing ultrasound-guided core biopsies of cervical lymph nodes over a 17-month period. The final histology report was scrutinised to assess whether adequate tissue was obtained to allow for full tissue diagnosis.

RESULTS

Over the 17-month period analysed, 70 patients with cervical lymphadenopathy underwent core biopsy. Of these, 63 (90%) were diagnostic for either lymphoma or other pathology and did not require further tissue sampling. Overall, 19 patients were diagnosed with lymphoma, of which only 1 required further biopsy due to inconclusive initial core biopsy.

CONCLUSIONS

Current guidelines for investigating lymphomas require that excisional biopsy be performed to obtain ample tissue to allow full nodal architecture assessment and ancillary investigation to reach an accurate histological classification. Within our head and neck multidisciplinary team, however, it is considered that results from core biopsies can be obtained in a more timely fashion and with histological accuracy equal to those of open biopsy. The results obtained demonstrate that core biopsy is an effective tool for investigation. We believe this should be the first-line investigation of choice, as it reduces the need for patients to undergo surgery, is more cost effective and offers a faster diagnosis.

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