Thymoma: Cytopathologic features and differential diagnosis on fine needle aspiration

Syed Z. Ali, Yener S. Erozan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Cytopathologic descriptions of thymoma are limited. This study was undertaken to elaborate on the cytomorphologic features along with clinicoradiologic findings of this entity, with special emphasis on the differential diagnosis. STUDY DESIGN: Twenty cases of thymoma were retrospectively studied. Material was obtained by fine needle aspiration (FNA). Smears were stained with Diff-Quik and Papanicolaou stain, and cell block sections were stained with hematoxylin and eosin. Immuno-cytochemical (ICC) studies were done in selected cases using cytokeratins, epithelial membrane antigen, carcinoembryonic antigen, placental alkaline phosphatase, neuron-specific enolase, chromogranin and lymphocytic markers (CD3 and UCHL- 1). RESULTS: Fourteen thymomas were from the anterior mediastinum; the remaining 6 were invasive or metastatic to the lung (2), pleura (2), liver (1) and abdominal wall (1). The key diagnostic feature was a biphasic population of epithelial cells and lymphocytes in varying proportions. Medullary thymomas showed cohesive, spindled epithelial cells, whereas cortical subtypes displayed more epithelioid epithelial cells singly and in discohesive clusters. All cases of invasive or metastatic thymoma were of the cortical subtype. ICC studies were positive for cytokeratins and epithelial membrane antigen. CONCLUSION: FNA, coupled with clinicoradiologic information and appropriate immunocytochemical studies, is highly accurate in the diagnosis of primary and metastatic thymomas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)845-854
Number of pages10
JournalActa cytologica
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998


  • Aspiration biopsy
  • Mediastinum
  • Thymoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology

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