Ectopic thyroid in EBUS: experience from a quality assurance programme

Antti Vuorisalo, Erkka Tommola, Pia Eloranta, Tanja Vanhelo, Timo Paavonen, Ivana Kholová

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


A diagnostic challenge is presented: Distinguishing ectopic thyroid tissue from metastatic well-differentiated follicular carcinoma in cytological material. Two cases of thyroid tissue in mediastinal lymph nodes were sampled by endobronchial ultrasound-guided transbronchial needle aspiration (EBUS-TBNA). Later, the cases were presented in Labquality's nongynecological external quality scheme rounds in the years 2017, 2019, and 2020. The same case was presented two times, both in the 2017 and in the 2020 rounds. The results of the three rounds and the discussion of diagnostic pitfalls of ectopic thyroid tissue are presented. A total of 112 individual laboratories worldwide participated in the external quality assurance rounds with whole-slide scanned images and digital still images of alcohol-fixed Papanicolaou-stained cytospin specimens in the years 2017, 2019, and 2020. Fifty-three laboratories participated in both the 2017 (53 of 70, 75.71%) and the 2020 (53 of 85, 62.35%) rounds. The given Pap classes between rounds were compared. Twelve (12 of 53, 22.6%) of the laboratories gave the same Pap class value, whereas 32 (32 of 53, 60.4%) were in the range of ±1 class difference (Cohen's kappa −0.035, p < 0.637). When comparing the diagnoses, 21 (21 of 53, 39.6%) laboratories gave the same diagnosis in 2017 and in 2020 (Cohen's kappa 0.039, p < 0.625). Thirty-two of the laboratories gave the same diagnosis both in 2017 and in 2020 (Cohen's kappa 0.004, p < 0.979). Ten (10 of 53, 18.9%) laboratories changed their diagnose from malignant to benign, and 11 (11 of 53, 20.8%) changed their diagnose from benign to malignant between the 2017 and the 2020 rounds. In conclusions, the expert reference diagnosis was thyroid tissue in mediastinal lymph node. Thyroid tissue in mediastinal lymph node may be either of ectopic or of neoplastic origin. The diagnostic work-up should include cytomorphological, immunohistochemical, laboratory, and imaging results. If a neoplastic change is excluded, the benign category is the most feasible one. The quality assurance rounds showed a large variability in the given Pap classes. Mirroring the problematic issue both inter- and intralaboratory of such cases both in routine diagnostics and in the classification terminologies is requiring multidisciplinary evaluation approach in the diagnostics.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Feb 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • cytology
  • ectopic tissue
  • Quality assurance
  • thyroid gland

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Microbiology (medical)


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