BACKGROUND: Core-needle biopsy (CNB) has occasionally been used in the work-up of head and neck lesions. However, no systematic review of this simple, minimally invasive method has yet been performed.
METHODS: A systematic review of the literature and meta-analysis of data extracted from 16 included studies were performed. A total of 1291 cervical lesions in 1267 patients were examined by CNB. This resulted in 1232 adequate samples, from which 554 were subsequently confirmed by excisional biopsy.
RESULTS: CNB was able to identify true neoplasms and detect malignancy in head and neck lesions with an overall accuracy of 94% and 96%, respectively, even though there was a significant difference between the histologically verified and all adequate samples. CNB provided a correct specific diagnosis in 87% of cases without major complications and achieved a higher accuracy than that of fine-needle aspiration in detecting malignancy.
CONCLUSIONS: This meta-analysis confirms that CNB is an excellent method in the assessment of salivary gland lesions and lymphadenopathies inclusive of malignant lymphoma, but it is not ideal for evaluating thyroid lesions.