Preoperative Biopsy Diagnosis in Pulmonary Carcinoids, a Shot in the Dark

Laura Moonen, Jules L. Derks, Bregtje C. M. Hermans, Iris M. Bunnik, Lisa M. Hillen, Robert Jan van Suylen, Michael A. den Bakker, Jan H. von der Thusen, Ronald A. Damhuis, Esther C. van den Broek, Wieneke A. Buikhuisen, Anne-Marie C. Dingemans, Ernst Jan M. Speel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction: The preferred treatment for pulmonary carcinoids (PCs) is lobectomy, and parenchyma-sparing approaches might be considered for typical carcinoids (TCs). Treatment decisions are based on a preoperative biopsy diagnosis. Following the WHO criteria (2015), definitive diagnosis is only feasible postoperatively, thereby hampering preoperative treatment decisions. Here, we determined whether the final carcinoid classification on a resection specimen can be predicted by a preoperative biopsy.

Methods: We searched all stage I to III patients with a final carcinoid diagnosis who underwent a curative resection and of whom both a preoperative biopsy and paired resection specimen were available (2003-2012) using the Dutch Pathology Registry (PALGA) and the Netherlands Cancer Registry (IKNL). Pathology report conclusions of the biopsy-resection specimen were compared.

Results: Paired biopsy-resection specimens in combination with clinical data were available from 330 patients. 57% (189 of 330) of the patients exhibited discordance between the preoperative biopsy and paired resection diagnosis, including 36% (44 of 121) preoperatively diagnosed TC, 40% (six of 15) atypical carcinoid (AC), and 65% (103 of 158) not-otherwise-specified (NOS) carcinoids. A quarter of preoperatively diagnosed TC and NOS was reclassified as AC on the resection specimen. Preoperatively diagnosed ACs exhibited the highest relapse rates (40%, 6 of 15). Preoperatively diagnosed TC and NOS patients who were reclassified as ACs exhibited higher relapse rates as compared to nonreclassified TCs and NOS (3% versus 1%, and 16% versus 6%).

Conclusions: We provide evidence that carcinoid classification on preoperative biopsies is imprecise, as is also stated by the current WHO classification. We advise clinicians to interpret the preoperative biopsy diagnosis with caution in deciding the extent of surgery (e.g., parenchyma-sparing versus non-parenchyma-sparing). (C) 2020 International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)610-618
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Thoracic Oncology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Pulmonary
  • Neuroendocrine
  • Carcinoid
  • Biopsy
  • Classification


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