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Int J Qual Health Care. 1998 Jun;10(3):241-5.

Evaluation of turnaround times as a component of quality assurance in surgical pathology.

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  • 1Department of Anatomic Pathology, Hospital Clínical i Provincial de Barcelone, University of Barcelona, Spain.



As a part of a quality assurance program in anatomic pathology, a study was conducted to determine intralaboratory components of turnaround time according to specimen type, and to compare the present data with results obtained 2 years after implementing the program.


Assessment of intralaboratory turnaround times for surgical pathology reports in a sample of 501 biopsies and surgical specimens during 1992. Comparison between the basal data obtained in 1992 and the final determination in 1994 after the implementation of an improvement action.


Surgical specimens and biopsies accessioned at the Department of Anatomic Pathology of a 913-bed acute-care teaching hospital in the city of Barcelona, Spain. STUDY SAMPLES AND PARTICIPANTS: The sample was selected from the total number of biopsies and surgical specimens accessioned on specific days by applying a table of random numbers. Data were collected from the request forms, final report copies, and laboratory registries of turnaround time-points by two resident physicians.


All relevant information concerning turnaround times was recorded following a standardized questionnaire developed specifically for the study.


The basal determination for turnaround time for pathologic diagnosis in 1992 was 5.7 days.


The mean turnaround time for the 501 specimens was 6.24 (SD = 3.16; range = 2-27 days). Turnaround times varied substantially according to specimen type. Endoscopic biopsy samples were completed by 5.19 days (SD = 2.18). Bone biopsies were finalized within a mean of 8.11 days of receipt (SD = 3.18). For the diagnosis of lymphoproliferative disorders, most lymph node specimens required special histochemical or immunohistochemical stains. The mean turnaround time for results reporting/results transmittal to the ordering physician varied between 1.14 and 1.66 days. The 1992 annual mean turnaround time for a total of 14,862 surgical pathology specimens was 5.7 days as compared with 4.2 days for a total of 17,931 surgical pathology specimens in 1994.

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