Outcome of Subclassification of Indeterminate (Thy-3) Thyroid Cytology into Thy-3a and Thy-3f

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The British Thy system is a widely used classification system for reporting thyroid fine-needle aspiration (FNA) cytology. The Royal College of Pathologists in 2009 recommended the subdivision of the Thy-3 (indeterminate) category into Thy-3a (atypia) and Thy-3f (follicular neoplasm). Our objective was to examine the malignancy rates of Thy-3a and Thy-3f cases at our institution and to investigate whether the risk of malignancy in Thy-3a cases is reduced by FNA on a different occasion showing benign cytology.


This is a retrospective study of 748 thyroid nodules undergoing 1,032 FNAs, with indeterminate (Thy-3) cytology subdivided into Thy-3a and Thy-3f. Cases were correlated with final histology in surgical cases. Incidental carcinomas occurring outside the biopsied nodule were discounted.


A total of 109 nodules had a final cytological diagnosis of Thy-3a, of which 67 underwent surgery, with an incidence of malignancy of 13.4% (9/67); 90 nodules had a final cytological diagnosis of Thy-3f, of which 84 underwent surgery, with an incidence of malignancy of 17.9% (15/84). The difference in malignancy rates was not significant (p = 0.51). The incidence of malignancy in nodules with benign and Thy-3a cytology on separate occasions was not significantly different from cases with a single Thy-3a cytology.


Thyroid nodules with Thy-3a cytology have a slightly lower risk of malignancy than Thy-3f cases. However, the difference is not significant and does not appear to be reduced by FNA on a separate occasion showing benign cytology. Management decisions for patients with Thy-3a cytology should be taken carefully to avoid missing cancers.

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