The diagnostic accuracy of fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) of head and neck lesions is relatively high, but cytologic interpretation might be confusing if the sample is lacking typical cytologic features according to labeled site by physician. These errors may have an impact on pathology search engines, healthcare costs or even adverse outcomes. The cytology archive database of multiple institutions in southern Iran and Australia covering the period 2001–2011, were searched using keywords: salivary gland, head, neck, FNAC, and cytology. All the extracted reports were reviewed. The reports which showed discordance between the clinician’s impression of the organ involved and subsequent fine needle biopsy request, and the eventual cytological diagnosis were selected. The cytological diagnosis was confirmed by histology or cell block, with assistance from imaging, clinical outcome, physical examination, molecular studies, or microbiological culture. The total number of 10,200 head and neck superficial FNAC were included in the study, from which 48 cases showed discordance between the clinicians request and the actual site of pathology. Apart from the histopathology, the imaging, clinical history, physical examination, immunohistochemical study, microbiologic culture and molecular testing helped to finalize the target organ of pathology in 23, 6, 7, 8, 2, and 1 cases respectively. The commonest discrepancies were for FNAC of “salivary gland” [total: 20 with actual final pathology in: bone (7), soft tissue (5), lymph node (3), odontogenic (3) and skin (2)], “lymph node” [total: 12 with final pathology in: soft tissue (3), skin (3), bone (1) and brain (1)], “soft tissue” [total: 11 with final pathology in: bone (5), skin (2), salivary gland (1), and ocular region (1)] and “skin” [total: 5 with final pathology in: lymph node (2), bone (1), soft tissue (1) and salivary gland (1)]. The primary physician requesting FNAC of head and neck lesions are incorrect in their clinical impression of the actual site in nearly 0.5 percent of cases, due to the overlapping clinical and imaging findings or possibly due to inadequate history taking or physical examination.


fine needle biopsy, fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC), diagnostic accuracy, cytologic interpretation

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