Clear cell change in follicular adenoma of the thyroid. A diagnostic challenge

Vol. 61 No. 1, 2020


Jose-Fernando Val-Bernal, Maria Martino

Clear cells in thyroid neoplasms can take two main forms: balloon-shaped and signet-ring cells. Balloon-shaped cell change in follicular adenoma is rare. A review of the literature has revealed only 20 previously published cases. We report herein a new case in the right thyroid lobe of a 45-year-old man. The clinicopathological data of the 21 cases including our paper have revealed that the ages of the patients ranged from 22-70 years, with a mean of 41.6 years. There was a clear predominance in women (M:F, 1:6). The most frequent location was in either of both lobes (81.8%), rarely affecting the isthmus. One case was observed in an ectopic thyroid in the submandibular region. The size ranged from 0.7-5.5 cm (mean 2.9 cm). The type of surgical intervention where this data was reported it was lobectomy for 10 (55.5%) cases, thyroidectomy for six (33.3%) cases, and simple excision for two (11.1%) cases. In one patient, the lobectomy was accompanied by cervical lymph node dissection. No cases recurred or extended outside the thyroid. The main differential diagnoses include intrathyroidal clear cell tumor of parathyroid origin, clear cell carcinoma of follicular, oncocytic, papillary, medullary or undifferentiated (anaplastic) origin, paraganglioma, metastatic clear cell carcinoma, especially of renal origin, metastatic balloon cell melanoma, and clear large-cell lymphoma. A thyroid lesion showing clear cell change constitutes a diagnostic challenge in cytological and biopsy diagnosis. Careful observation of the routine techniques along with the aid of an adequate immunohistochemical panel is essential to reach a correct biopsy diagnosis.

Corresponding author: Jose-Fernando Val-Bernal, Professor, MD, PhD; e-mail:

DOI: 10.47162/RJME.61.1.24 Download PDF