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Cancer. 2000 May 15;88(10):2342-9.

Discrepancies in diagnoses of neuroepithelial neoplasms: the San Francisco Bay Area Adult Glioma Study.

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Department of Pathology, University of California, School of Medicine, San Francisco 94143-0506, USA.



Valid and reliable diagnoses of disease are key both to meaningful epidemiologic and clinical investigations and to decision-making about appropriate treatment. One previous study highlighted the lack of precision in diagnosing primary brain tumors in a neuropathology referral practice. The current study explores diagnostic discrepancies in a population-based adult glioma series by hospital of origin, specialty training of the original diagnosing pathologist, and clinical significance.


To confirm patients' eligibility for the San Francisco Adult Glioma Study, the authors obtained participants' pathology specimens and conducted a uniform secondary neuropathology review. Eligible patients were all adults age 20 years or older newly diagnosed with glioma between August 1, 1991, and March 31, 1994, who resided in 1 of 6 San Francisco Bay Area counties.


Overall, the original and secondary diagnoses were the same (concordant) for 352 (77%) of the 457 cases available for study. Twenty-six percent of the cases from community hospitals were discordant, compared with 12% of the cases from academic hospitals P= 0.004. Of the 105 discordant diagnoses, 17 (16%) were determined to be clinically significant, defined as a difference that could significantly alter patient management and/or prognosis. Sixteen of these 17 cases originated at community hospitals, and only 1 originated at a hospital with a neuropathologist. Based on the distribution of review diagnoses, subjects presenting at nonacademic hospitals were more likely than those presenting at academic hospitals to have glioblastoma (61% vs. 52%; P = 0.07).


The percentage of cases with discrepant original and review diagnoses was higher among those originally diagnosed at community hospitals without a neuropathologist than among those originally diagnosed at an academic hospital with a neuropathologist. Clinically significant discrepancies were much more likely to have originated at a community hospital without a neuropathologist. These data highlight the importance of review of brain tumors by a neuropathologist prior to decision-making regarding treatment. A separate implication of this study is that glioma cases selected exclusively from academic or nonacademic institutions in a particular geographic area are unlikely to be representative of all cases occurring in that area.

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