The significance of paravacuolar granules of the thyroid. A histologic, cytologic and ultrastructural study.
ABSTRACT The presence of the so-called "paravacuolar granules" in thyroid follicular cells has been associated with increased metabolic activity of the gland, regressive changes, degeneration, phagocytic activity and benign papillary hyperplasia. During the course of a review of the intraoperative cytologic preparations and corresponding histologic sections from 73 thyroid cases, the presence of granules within follicular cells was noted in 25 cases (18 adenomatous or colloid goiters, 3 follicular adenomas, 2 papillary carcinomas, 1 follicular carcinoma and in thyroid tissue surrounding a follicular adenoma in 1 case). Histochemical and ultrastructural studies showed the granules to consist of lysosomes containing hemosiderin or lipofuscin pigments. These findings indicate that the presence of paravacuolar granules in thyroid cells is a common nonspecific finding that simply reflects: (1) the erythrophagocytic capability of the follicular epithelial cells, which results in the accumulation of iron within lysosomes, and (2) the accumulation of lipofuscin pigments within lysosomes as a result of degradation of endogenous cellular material.