The impact of FNAC in the management of salivary gland lesions: Institutional experiences leading to a risk-based classification scheme

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Fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) has proven its value as an essential step in the diagnosis of salivary gland lesions. Although the majority of salivary gland lesions, especially those that are common and benign, can be diagnosed with ease on FNAC, limited cellularity and morphologic lesion heterogeneity can pose diagnostic challenges and lead to false-positive and false-negative diagnoses. This study presents the institutional experience of FNAC of salivary gland lesions from 2 academic centers.


A retrospective analysis was conducted on 1729 salivary gland FNAC specimens that were diagnosed over an 8-year period from January 2008 to March 2015. All samples were processed either with liquid-based cytology alone or in combination with air-dried, Diff-Quik–stained or alcohol-fixed, Papanicolaou-stained smears.


Surgical excision was performed in 709 of 1749 FNACs (41%) that were diagnosed as nondiagnostic/inadequate (n = 29), benign (n = 111), neoplasm (n = 453), atypical (n = 15), suspicious for malignancy (n = 28), and malignant (n = 73). The overall concordance between cytologic and histologic diagnoses was 92.2%, with 91.8% concordance in the benign category and 89.5% concordance in cases diagnosed as suspicious for malignancy and malignant. The most frequent benign and malignant lesions were pleomorphic adenoma and squamous cell carcinoma, respectively. There were 46 false-negative and 13 false-positive results, leading to an overall specificity of 97.6% and diagnostic accuracy of 91.3%.


FNAC is a reliable diagnostic modality for the diagnosis and management of salivary gland lesions based on its high specificity and diagnostic accuracy. Cancer Cytopathol2016;124:388–96. © 2016 American Cancer Society.

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