Fine-needle aspiration of cystic lesions of the kidney: Morphologic spectrum and diagnostic problems in 41 cases

Teresa D. Todd, Bakula Dhurandhar, Dina R. Mody, Ibrahim Ramzy, Luan Truong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Although imaging studies show the nature of most cystic lesions of the kidney (RCs), many RCs require fine-needle aspiration (FNA) for accurate diagnosis. Interpretation of the FNAs remains challenging. The FNA specimens of 41 RCs were reviewed and correlated with imaging studies. Final diagnoses for 30 cytologically benign lesions were simple cyst (28), acquired cystic kidney (1), and cystic renal carcinoma (1). The fluid from the benign cysts displayed macrophages, epithelial cells from the cyst lining, tubular cells, neutrophils, and Liesegang rings. Fluid from the acquired cystic kidney and the cystic renal cell carcinoma showed features similar to those of the benign cysts. The 9 cases with 'suspicious' cytology included 5 complex cystic lesions displaying rare but atypical epithelial cell clusters, 3 low- grade renal cell carcinomas with many mildly atypical papillary clusters of epithelial cells, and 1 simple benign cyst with many tubular cells. The 2 cytologically malignant lesions were cystic renal cell carcinomas with abundant tumor cells with partially clear cytoplasm and atypical nuclei admixed with abundant macrophages and lymphocytes; 1 case developed in a kidney with acquired cystic disease. Simple cysts remain the most frequently aspirated RCs, but complex cystic lesions are increasingly recognized. Since many RCs are composed of independent loculi, a nonrepresentative sample is a potential problem, and cytologic-radiologic correlation becomes mandatory. The 'suspicious' patterns identified in this study should serve as diagnostic guidelines and set the foundation for future validation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-328
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999


  • Complex cystic renal lesions
  • Fine-needle aspiration
  • Renal cyst
  • Simple cyst

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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