Poor agreement in recognition of abnormal mitoses: requirement for standardized and robust definitions

Histopathology. 2001 Jan;38(1):68-72. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2559.2001.01034.x.


Aims: The finding of abnormal mitoses is a helpful feature in differentiating between benign and malignant neoplasia and has prognostic significance for some tumours. As the use of a histopathological variable is limited by the reproducibility of its recognition, we tested the interobserver agreement in the classification of abnormal mitoses among histopathologists. METHODS adn

Results: Ten practising histopathologists were shown 30 potential mitotic figures and were asked to classify these as 'normal mitoses', 'abnormal mitoses' or 'not mitoses' according to the criteria each pathologist used in their routine practice. The results were analysed using kappa statistics. Overall agreement was only fair with a combined kappa of 0.31 and there was unanimous categorization of only four of 30 test items, none of which was called abnormal. The poorest result was obtained for the category 'abnormal mitosis' with only slight agreement (kappa 0.19). Agreement for the other categories varied from moderate (kappa = 0.45) for 'not a mitosis' to fair (kappa = 0.26) for 'normal mitosis'. Comparison of the results for observer pairs showed that for 12 out of the 45 possible pairings, there was no more agreement than might be expected by chance alone.

Conclusion: Agreement is poor among practising histopathologists in the recognition of abnormal mitoses. A standardized and robust definition is needed if diagnostic and prognostic significance is accorded to the finding of an abnormal mitosis in the context of neoplasia.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mitosis*
  • Observer Variation*
  • Pathology / statistics & numerical data*
  • Reference Standards