DOI: 10.1002/wjs.12052 ISSN: 0364-2313

Accuracy and diagnostic performance of the Bethesda system for reporting thyroid cytopathology in a tertiary endocrine surgical referral center in Belgium

Sam Kinet, Hendrik Cornette, Klaas Van Den Heede, Nele Brusselaers, Sam Van Slycke
  • Surgery



The Bethesda System for Reporting Thyroid Cytopathology is a commonly used classification for fine needle aspiration (FNA) cytology of suspicious thyroid nodules. The risk of malignancy (ROM) for each category has recently been analyzed in three international databases. This paper compares the diagnostic performance of the Bethesda classification in a high‐volume referral center in Belgium.


All consecutive thyroid procedures were registered in a prospective database from January 2010 till August 2022. Patient and surgical characteristics, preoperative Bethesda categories, and postoperative pathology results were analyzed.


Out of 2219 consecutive thyroid procedures, 1226 patients underwent preoperative FNA. Papillary thyroid cancer was the most prevalent malignancy (N = 119, 70.4%), followed by follicular (N = 17, 10.1%) and medullary thyroid cancer (N = 15, 8.9%). Micropapillary thyroid cancer was incidentally found in 46 (3.8%) patients. Bethesda categories I, II, III, IV, V, and VI, respectively, represented 250 (20.4%; ROM 4.4%), 546 (44.5%; ROM 3.8%), 96 (7.8%; ROM 20.8%), 231 (18.8%; ROM 15.2%), 62 (5.1%; ROM 72.6%), and 41 (3.3%; ROM 90.2%) patients. Overall ROM was 13.8%. An negative predictive value (NPV) of 96.2% was found. Overall specificity was 64.2% with a positive predictive value (PPV) of 31.9%. Diagnostic accuracy was 67.8%. Compared to international databases (CESQIP, EUROCRINE, and UKRETS), ROM in this study appeared lower for Bethesda category IV (15.2 vs. 26.7% and p = 0.612).


Despite being validated in numerous studies, ROM based on preoperative FNA cytology classified according to the Bethesda classification may vary among surgical centers and countries as this study reveals a higher NPV and lower PPV.

More from our Archive