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Is Fine-Needle Aspiration Biopsy a Practical Alternative to Open Biopsy for the Primary Diagnosis of Sarcoma?
Experience With 140 Patients

Scott E. Kilpatrick MD, James O. Cappellari MD, Gary D. Bos MD, Stuart H. Gold MD, William G. Ward MD
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1309/YN14-K8U4-5FLJ-DGJE 59-68 First published online: 1 January 2001


We reviewed the clinicopathologic features of 145 consecutive fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) specimens from 140 patients without a previous diagnosis of sarcoma. Among 138 adequate specimens, 42 bone sarcomas and 80 soft tissue sarcomas were recognized as sarcomas; histologic subtyping was easier in bone than in soft tissue sarcomas and in pediatric than in adult cases. There was no correlation in accuracy of subtyping in low- vs high-grade sarcomas. FNAB was most accurate for subtyping of skeletal osteosarcoma, pediatric small round cell bone/soft tissue sarcomas, synovial sarcoma, skeletal chondrosarcoma, and adult myxoid soft tissue sarcomas. Although almost always recognized as sarcoma, subtyping of adult pleomorphic soft tissue sarcomas generally was not possible but did not influence therapy; all were considered high-grade sarcomas for treatment purposes. There were 4 misinterpretations of subtype in soft tissue sarcomas; none resulted in a change in therapy. Cytogenetic analysis on aspirated material confirmed t(11;22) in 2 Ewing and t(X;18) in 3 synovial sarcomas. No procedure-related complications occurred. Among bone and soft tissue sarcomas, FNAB was sufficient for initiation of definitive therapy in 87% and 83% of patients, respectively. Most FNAB specimens from bone and soft tissue sarcomas are recognized easily as sarcoma, but subtyping seems more accurate in bone sarcomas. Although histologic subtyping of adult soft tissue sarcomas is often impossible, no influence on initial therapy is usually observed. In contrast, subtyping of pediatric sarcomas by FNAB seems highly accurate and is necessary for appropriate therapy.

Key Words:
  • Sarcoma
  • Cytology
  • Aspiration biopsy
  • Open biopsy