Rapid on-site assessment of specimens by biomedical scientists improves the quality of head and neck fine needle aspiration cytology

J. Breeze, D. N. Poller, D. Gibson, E. A. Tilley, L. Cooke, E. Soar, C. Repanos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Immediate rapid on-site assessment (ROSA) of fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) specimens by biomedical scientists (BMS), the UK equivalent of cytotechnologists, or by pathologists may improve specimen quality and cellular adequacy rates for lymph node, head and neck and thyroid FNAC. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of introducing ROSA by BMS in an outpatient clinic setting.

Methods: The adequacy rate and sensitivity of histological diagnosis for lymph node, thyroid and salivary gland FNAC samples were determined before and after the introduction of BMS ROSA. The additional financial costs and time required to perform this service were also estimated.

Results: Thirty-one patients underwent ultrasound (US)-guided FNAC with ROSA and 151 without. ROSA reduced the number of FNAC insufficient in quality for diagnosis from 43% to 19% (P = 0.0194). The estimated additional cost for pathology per patient for ROSA was between £52.05 and £70.74, equivalent to €65.40/US $83.90 and €88.89/US $114.0, respectively, an increase of between 28% and 49% from the original cost. ROSA necessitated an additional 6 minutes clinic time per patient, reducing the number of patients that could be seen in an average clinic from 13 to 10 as well as requiring increased laboratory time for FNAC slide assessment.

Conclusion: ROSA by suitably trained biomedical scientists and with appropriate consultant pathologist support can improve the quality of FNAC sampling for head and neck lesions. Although ROSA resulted in both additional financial and time costs, these are more than likely to be offset by a reduction in patients returning to clinic for repeat FNAC or undergoing unnecessary surgery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-321
Number of pages6
JournalCancer Cytopathology
Issue number5
Early online date21 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2014


  • ambulatory care facilities
  • biomedical technology
  • biopsy, fine-needle
  • cytodiagnosis
  • head and neck neoplasms
  • humans
  • lymph nodes
  • medical laboratory personnel
  • neck
  • salivary glands
  • specimen handling
  • thyroid gland
  • fine needle aspiration cytology
  • rapid on-site assessment
  • financial costs
  • biomedical scientists
  • quality improvement


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