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A thyroid nodule is a discrete lesion within the thyroid gland that is radiologically distinct from the surrounding thyroid parenchyma. Thyroid nodules are prevalent in up to 68 % of randomly selected individuals in whom high resolution ultrasound is performed. The majority of nodules are benign. Thyroid nodules are the clinical manifestation of a myriad of pathologic processes. The use of ultrasound has dramatically reduced the number of patients who undergo surgery for nodules. Several risk scoring systems have been developed which aim to reduce interobserver variability and allow clinicians to make decisions regarding further workup and follow-up. The most useful of these is the Thyroid Imaging Reporting and Data System (TIRADS) classification. The six tier Bethesda scoring system has reduced variability and increased the ability to clinicians to guide patients with thyroid nodules. There is good correlation between cytology and histopathologic outcomes. A significant proportion of patients will however fall into an indeterminate category. The American Thyroid Association uses a different system based on an estimated risk of malignancy from centers that deal with a high volume of patients with thyroid nodules and malignancy. The availability of molecular markers enhanced with next generation sequencing technology and the expression classifier are added diagnostic aids that can help in management. However, these are not available in many countries and in resource limited settings. A pragmatic approach to the diagnosis of indeterminate nodules includes utilizing pre- and posttest probability, clinical acumen, correlation of ultrasound findings and expert opinion in some settings. Using this approach high risk patients can be appropriately chosen for surgery while relegating patients with lower risk to watchful follow-up.
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