Consultative (expert) second opinions in soft tissue pathology. Analysis of problem-prone diagnostic situations

Am J Clin Pathol. 2001 Oct;116(4):473-6. doi: 10.1309/425H-NW4W-XC9A-005H.


We reviewed 500 consecutive soft tissue lesions referred for expert consultation to determine types of lesions and/or situations in which major discrepancies occur. Of 266 cases (53.2%) accompanied by a diagnosis, essential agreement with the second opinion was noted in 68%, minor discrepancy in 7%, and major discrepancy in 25%. The 65 major discrepancies were distributed proportionally to the referring sources and could be divided into 4 groups: benign mesenchymal lesions diagnosed as sarcomas (45%), sarcomas diagnosed as benign tumors (23%), nonmesenchymal lesions diagnosed as sarcoma (20%), and major grading discrepancies (12%). Relatively few lesions accounted for a major proportion of major discrepancies. Problematic lesions were lipoma and fasciitis and their variants and desmoplastic-neurotropic melanoma. Needle biopsy specimens were somewhat more likely to be associated with a discrepant opinion. With the exception of nonmesenchymal lesions, the diagnosis for all major discrepant cases could be made on the basis of the H&E-stained slides, suggesting that failure to perform immunostains did not account for discrepancies. Lack of familiarity with rare or unusual lesions is probably more significant in explaining diagnostic discrepancies than is the increasing use of needle biopsy or the failure to perform immunohistochemical analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Fasciitis / pathology
  • Giant Cell Tumors / pathology
  • Histiocytoma, Benign Fibrous / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lipoma / pathology
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Sarcoma / pathology
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Staining and Labeling