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Lab Invest. 2006 Apr;86(4):326-34.

Evidence-based interpretation of liver biopsies.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA.


'Evidence based medicine' is a paradigm introduced in the 1990s in which collection of clinical data in a reproducible and unbiased way is intended to guide clinical decision-making. This paradigm has been promulgated across the spectrum of medicine, but with more limited critical analysis in the realm of pathology. The 'evidence base' in support of our practices in Anatomic Pathology is a critical issue, given the key role that such diagnoses play in patient management decisions. The question is, 'On what basis are diagnostic opinions rendered in Anatomic Pathology?' The operative question becomes, 'What is the published literature that supports our anatomic pathology interpretations?' This second question was applied to the published literature in Hepatopathology, by identifying the 'citation classics' of this discipline. Specifically, the top 150 most-cited liver pathology articles were analyzed for: authorship; journal of publication; type of publication; and year of publication. Results are as follows. First, it is indeed true that the preeminent hepatopathologists of the age are the most cited authors in the 'top 150'. Second, the most cited articles in hepatopathology are not published in the pathology literature, but are instead published in much higher impact clinical journals. Third, the pathology of viral hepatitis is demonstrated to be extraordinarily well-grounded in 'evidence based medicine'. Much of the remainder of the hepatopathology literature falls into a 'narrative based' paradigm, which is the rigorous reporting of case experience without statistical clinical outcomes validation. Finally, the years of publication reflect, on the one hand, a vigorous recent literature in the pharmaceutical treatment of viral hepatitis, and on the other, a broadly distributed set of 'narrative' articles from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. In conclusion, the discipline of hepatopathology appears to be well-grounded in 'evidence based medicine' in the realm of viral hepatitis. The remainder of our discipline rests predominantly upon the time-honored identification of disease process through the publication of narrative case series.

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