Reappraisal of shear wave elastography as a diagnostic tool for identifying thyroid carcinoma

Kristine Zøylner Swan*, Steen Joop Bonnema, Marie Louise Jespersen, Viveque Egsgaard Nielsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Thyroid nodular disease is common, but predicting the risk of malignancy can be difficult. In this prospective study, we aimed to assess the diagnostic accuracy of shear wave elastography (SWE) in predicting thyroid malignancy. Patients with thyroid nodules were enrolled from a surgical tertiary unit. Elasticity index (EI) measured by SWE was registered for seven EI outcomes assessing nodular stiffness and heterogeneity. The diagnosis was determined histologically. In total, 329 patients (mean age: 55 ± 13 years) with 413 thyroid nodules (mean size: 32 ± 13 mm, 88 malignant) were enrolled. Values of SWE region of interest (ROI) for malignant and benign nodules were highly overlapping (ranges for SWE-ROImean: malignant 3-100 kPa; benign 4-182 kPa), and no difference between malignant and benign nodules was found for any other EI outcome investigated (P = 0.13-0.96). There was no association between EI and the histological diagnosis by receiver operating characteristics analysis (area under the curve: 0.51-0.56). Consequently, defining a cut-off point of EI for the prediction of malignancy was not clinically meaningful. Testing our data on previously proposed cut-off points revealed a low accuracy of SWE (56-80%). By regression analysis, factors affecting EI included nodule size >30 mm, heterogeneous echogenicity, micro- or macrocalcifications and solitary nodule. In conclusion, EI, measured by SWE, showed huge overlap between malignant and benign nodules, and low diagnostic accuracy in the prediction of thyroid malignancy. Our study supports that firmness of thyroid nodules, as assessed by SWE, should not be a key feature in the evaluation of such lesions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEndocrine Connections
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)1195-1205
Publication statusPublished - 1. Aug 2019


  • Diagnosis
  • Elastography
  • Thyroid
  • Ultrasonography


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