This study carried out was to assess the feasibility of using robotic microscopy (RM) for cytologic evaluation of direct smears from fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB).
Three board-certified cytopathologists reviewed representative direct smears from 40 image-guided FNABs using RM and subsequently re-reviewed the same smears using conventional microscopy. Adequacy of the smears and cytologic diagnosis, as determined using the two approaches, were compared for each individual cytopathologist (intraobserver) and between the three cytopathologists (interobserver). The intraobserver and interobserver discrepancies were analyzed and discussed in a follow-up consensus conference.
For assessment of adequacy, there were high concordance rates (intraobserver: 92.5–97.5%; interobserver: 90–92.5%), with a few discrepancies involving distinctions between suboptimal and satisfactory smears. Analysis of diagnostic interpretations showed correct classification of 92.5–95% (intraobserver) or 90–92.5% (interobserver) of benign and malignant cases combined, with the discrepancies being between benign and atypical cells in the benign group, and between suspicious and malignant in the malignant group. Within the malignant group, 94% of cases were accurately subclassified via RM. The quality of images viewed by using RM was rated adequate (fair or good) for 95% of the slides.
The results demonstrate that cytologic evaluation of direct smears from FNABs using RM is feasible. Problems encountered included the longer times needed to evaluate cases with thick, bloody smears and/or low numbers of diagnostic cells, and difficulties in recognizing neuroendocrine differentiation and mimics of hepatocellular carcinoma.