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Am J Clin Pathol. 2009 Mar;131(3):364-75. doi: 10.1309/AJCP99OOOZSNISCZ.

Challenges and pitfalls of morphologic identification of fungal infections in histologic and cytologic specimens: a ten-year retrospective review at a single institution.

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Department of Pathology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Despite the advantages of providing an early presumptive diagnosis, fungal classification by histopathology can be difficult and may lead to diagnostic error. To assess the accuracy of histologic diagnosis of fungal infections vs culture ("gold standard"), we performed a 10-year retrospective review at our institution. Of the 47 of 338 positive mold and yeast cultures with concurrent surgical pathology evaluation without known history of a fungal infection, 37 (79%) were correctly identified based on morphologic features in histologic and/or cytologic specimens. The 10 discrepant diagnoses (21%) included misidentification of septate and nonseptate hyphal organisms and yeast forms. Errors resulted from morphologic mimics, use of inappropriate terminology, and incomplete knowledge in mycology. The accuracy did not correlate with preceding antifungal therapy (P = .14) or use of special stains (P = .34) and was not operator-dependent. Among 8 discrepancies with clinical follow-up available, 2 potential adverse clinical consequences resulted. While histopathologic identification of fungi in tissue sections and cytologic preparations is prone to error, implementation of a standardized reporting format should improve diagnostic accuracy and prevent adverse outcomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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