Thyroid nodules are common and are frequently benign. Current data suggest that the prevalence of palpable thyroid nodules is 3% to 7% in North America; the prevalence is as high as 50% based on ultrasonography (US) or autopsy data. The introduction of sensitive thyrotropin (thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH) assays, the widespread application of fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy, and the availability of high-resolution US have substantially improved the management of thyroid nodules. This document was prepared as a collaborative effort between the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) and the Associazione Medici Endocrinologi (AME). Most Task Force members are members of AACE. We have used the AACE protocol for clinical practice guidelines, with rating of available evidence, linking the guidelines to the strength of recommendations. Key observations include the following. Although most patients with thyroid nodules are asymptomatic, occasionally patients complain of dysphagia, dysphonia, pressure, pain, or symptoms of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Absence of symptoms does not rule out a malignant lesion; thus, it is important to review risk factors for malignant disease. Thyroid US should not be performed as a screening test. All patients with a palpable thyroid nodule, however, should undergo US examination. US-guided FNA (US-FNA) is recommended for nodules ≥10 mm; US-FNA is suggested for nodules <10 mm only if clinical information or US features are suspicious. Thyroid FNA is reliable and safe, and smears should be interpreted by an experienced pathologist. Patients with benign thyroid nodules should undergo follow-up, and malignant or suspicious nodules should be treated surgically. A radioisotope scan of the thyroid is useful if the TSH level is low or suppressed. Measurement of serum TSH is the best initial laboratory test of thyroid function and should be followed by measurement of free thyroxine if the TSH value is low and of thyroid peroxidase antibody if the TSH value is high. Percutaneous ethanol injection is useful in the treatment of cystic thyroid lesions; large, symptomatic goiters may be treated surgically or with radioiodine. Routine measurement of serum calcitonin is not recommended. Suggestions for thyroid nodule management during pregnancy are presented. We believe that these guidelines will be useful to clinical endocrinologists, endocrine surgeons, pediatricians, and internists whose practices include management of patients with thyroid disorders. These guidelines are thorough and practical, and they offer reasoned and balanced recommendations based on the best available evidence.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism