Although fine-needle aspiration (FNA) has been accepted as a first-line test in patients with thyroid masses, the utilization of FNA varies even among experienced surgeons. To determine its utility we compared FNA results, pathology, and clinical results in patients who underwent thyroidectomy in two major endocrine centers on both sides of the Atlantic: one in the United States (US) and another in the United Kingdom (UK). Between January 1997 and March 1998 a total of 84 patients underwent thyroid surgery at the UK center, and 143 underwent thyroidectomy at the US center. The most common indication for thyroidectomy at the UK center was compressive goiter (CG), whereas follicular neoplasm (FN) was the most common indication at the US center. Bilateral thyroid resections, frozen section utilization, and thyroid cancer surgery were more common at the US center. Thyroidectomy for symptomatic multinodular goiter and Graves' disease was more prevalent at the UK center. Thyroid gland weights were also significantly greater in the UK, indicating a higher incidence of endemic goiter. FNA was more commonly employed in the US center (84% vs. 52%; p < 0.001). Despite the differing utilization of FNA at these major endocrine centers, only one thyroid cancer at each institution was not detected preoperatively (both patients had a benign FNA result). Therefore there were no clinically significant thyroid cancers found in patients who did not undergo preoperative FNA. In conclusion, FNA appears to be differentially utilized depending on the incidence of endemic goiter, Graves' disease, and thyroid cancer. In this series no clinically significant thyroid cancers were found in patients who did not undergo preoperative FNA. Therefore in the hands of experienced thyroid surgeons, FNA can be utilized selectively based on the clinical presentation.