Thyroid Biopsy Specialists: A Quality Initiative to Reduce Wait Times and Improve Adequacy Rates
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PURPOSE: To develop and implement a program where selected sonographers would be trained to perform thyroid biopsies independently under the supervision of a radiologist, with the goal of improving efficiency and quality. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Institutional research ethics board approval was obtained for this retrospective study, with waiver of informed consent. After approval from the relevant regulatory bodies, four sonographers successfully completed a training program and began to perform all thyroid biopsies (with informed consent) in a room adjacent to the main radiologist-run biopsy room, where the radiologist was available for backup as needed. In the preimplementation period (January 2010 to April 2011), 1321 nodules were biopsied, 29 of which included on-site cytopathology assessment. In the postimplementation period (August 2011 to July 2012), 1347 nodules were biopsied, 103 of which underwent on-site cytopathology assessment. Wait times and adequacy rates were calculated for both periods. RESULTS: Patient wait times decreased from a mean of 80-90 days before implementation of the thyroid biopsy specialist program to 20-30 days afterward. The percentage of adequate samples improved from 74.6% (985 of 1321 nodules) to 78.6% (1059 of 1347 nodules), with a P value of .015 (74.1% [957 of 1292 nodules] to 77.5% [964 of 1244 nodules] when excluding nodules with on-site cytopathology assessment, P = .0497). The percentage of malignant samples showed no significant change in the two time periods, 5.1% (68 of 1321 nodules) before implementation of the program versus 5.4% (73 of 1347 nodules) after implementation, P = .823 (5.1% [66 of 1292 nodules] vs 5.3% [66 of 1244 nodules] in the respective time periods when excluding nodules with on-site cytopathology assessment, P = .888). No major procedural complications occurred. CONCLUSION: Sonographers can be successfully trained to perform ultrasonography-guided thyroid biopsies safely under the supervision of a radiologist, which can improve wait times and adequacy rates.
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