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Logo of jclinpathJournal of Clinical PathologyVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
J Clin Pathol. 2001 April; 54(4): 314–316.
PMCID: PMC1731390

Thyroglobulin immunoreactivity in lymph node histiocytes: a potential diagnostic pitfall


Aims—Strong thyroglobulin immunoreactivity within sinus histiocytes in a lymph node draining a papillary thyroid carcinoma was observed in a recent case. This prompted the investigation of whether thyroglobulin immunoreactivity is common in regional lymph nodes in cases of thyroid malignancy.

Methods—Eighty seven lymph nodes were studied from 21 cases of thyroid malignancy. These comprised papillary carcinoma (n = 12), follicular carcinoma (n = 4), medullary carcinoma (n = 3), and one case each of squamous and anaplastic carcinoma. Eleven cervical lymph nodes from patients with no evidence of thyroid disease were included as controls. Sections were stained with a monoclonal antibody against thyroglobulin.

Results—In the cases of thyroid malignancy, 32 of 87 lymph nodes showed positive staining for thyroglobulin of histiocytes within the subcapsular and medullary sinuses. In an additional four cases, there was positive staining of lymph within lymphatic channels. Positivity was present in at least one node in 15 of 21 cases. There was no positivity in the control cases. There was no correlation between the size of the primary tumour and the presence of thyroglobulin positivity.

Conclusions—Positive staining with antithyroglobulin occurs not uncommonly in sinus histiocytes in lymph nodes draining thyroid tumours. This positivity could be the result of the destruction of normal thyroid follicles, with the release of thyroglobulin, which is taken up by histiocytes, which subsequently drain to local lymph nodes. Pathologists should be aware of this phenomenon and should be careful not to interpret this as metastatic tumour.

Key Words: thyroid • thyroglobulin • immunohistochemistry

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Figure 1 Strong positive staining for thyroglobulin of sinus histiocytes within the lymph node.
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Figure 2 Strong positive staining for thyroglobulin of lymph within lymphatic channels.

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