In what is being hailed as a significant advancement in the field of thoracic oncology, a new study has demonstrated the efficacy and safety of computed tomography (CT)-guided percutaneous transthoracic needle biopsy (PTNB) in the diagnosis of thymic epithelial tumours (TETs). The comprehensive research spanning over fourteen years at the University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Asan Medical Center, offers hope and accrues benefits for patients undergoing diagnostic procedures for anterior mediastinal lesions suspected of being TETs.

DOI: 10.1016/j.crad.2023.12.009

Published in the distinguished journal Clinical Radiology, the study titled “CT-guided pretreatment biopsy diagnosis in patients with thymic epithelial tumours: diagnostic accuracy and risk of seeding” illuminates the potential of CT-guided PTNB in delivering precise preoperative diagnoses, thereby aiding clinicians in tailoring appropriate treatment strategies for individual patients.

The Research In-depth

Analyzing data from 385 PTNBs performed between May 2007 and September 2021, researchers focused on 235 PTNBs that diagnosed TETs, including 124 thymomas and 101 thymic carcinomas. They reported remarkable sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy rates of 89.4%, 100%, and 93.5%, respectively, with an immediate complication rate listed at a mere 4.4%. Notably, the concordance rate of histological grades between PTNBs and post-surgical evaluations stood at 73.3% when excluding uncategorized thymomas.

A noteworthy outcome of the study was the non-occurrence of tract seeding—a concern that deters many from choosing invasive diagnostic procedures. Researchers did not observe any tract seeding throughout the median follow-up period of 38.8 months. However, pleural seeding was noted in 26 patients, with thymic carcinoma and incomplete surgical resection emerging as significant risk factors.

The research team, led by Dr. Y. Ahn and comprising distinguished colleagues including Dr. S. M. Lee, who can be reached at, Dr. S. Choi, Dr. J. Choe, Dr. S. Y. Oh, Dr. K-H Do, and Dr. J. B. Seo, conducted a meticulous retrospective investigation that underscores the diagnostic merits of CT-guided PTNBs for patients with TETs.

Implications for Clinical Practice

The findings bring a paradigm shift in the diagnostic approach to anterior mediastinal masses, often a tricky clinical challenge due to the critical anatomy of the thoracic cavity and the concern of potential complications like seeding. By providing compelling evidence regarding the accuracy and safety of CT-guided PTNBs, the study paves the way for adopting this method as a standard diagnostic tool for TETs, especially in complex cases where histopathological confirmation is pivotal.

Addressing the issue of pleural seeding, the study guides surgical teams on the necessity of securing clear resection margins to evade this complication. Furthermore, it provides valuable insight that can shape post-biopsy surveillance strategies and underscores the importance of meticulous patient selection in reducing the risk of pleural dissemination.

Key Takeaways

1. CT-guided PTNB demonstrates a high diagnostic performance for TETs, reducing uncertainty and the need for exploratory surgery.
2. The immediate complication rate associated with the procedure is low.
3. Histological grade concordance rates uphold the reliability of PTNBs.
4. No tract seeding was reported, mitigating one of the key concerns related to PTNBs.


1. Ahn, Y., et al. (2024). CT-guided pretreatment biopsy diagnosis in patients with thymic epithelial tumours: diagnostic accuracy and risk of seeding. Clinical Radiology. DOI: 10.1016/j.crad.2023.12.009
2. The Royal College of Radiologists. (2024). CT-Guided Needle Biopsy for Anterior Mediastinal Masses. Clinical Radiology.
3. Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine. Research Institute of Radiology.
4. National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Thymomas and Thymic Carcinomas.
5. The Society of Thoracic Surgeons. (2020). Multidisciplinary Therapy for Thymoma and Thymic Carcinoma.


1. CT-Guided Biopsy Accuracy
2. Thymic Epithelial Tumour Diagnosis
3. Percutaneous Transthoracic Needle Biopsy
4. Anterior Mediastinal Mass Biopsy
5. Pleural Seeding Risks and CT-Guided Biopsy

This detailed study reinforces the place of CT-guided PTNB as a cornerstone in the diagnostic arsenal against TETs, solidifying the pathway towards precise and safe therapeutic interventions in thoracic oncology. As new frontiers in radiology and oncology continue to unfold, the research outcomes highlighted in this publication assure medical professionals and patients alike of the strides taken in improving diagnostic validity while maintaining patient safety.