Discrepancy in pathologic diagnosis of placental lesions

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2002 Jun;126(6):706-9. doi: 10.1043/0003-9985(2002)126<0706:DIPDOP>2.0.CO;2.


Context: Placentas are routinely examined by surgical pathologists, but peer review of placental diagnosis is rarely performed.

Objective: To determine the frequency of discrepant placental diagnosis between general surgical pathologists and a pediatric pathologist.

Design: One hundred fourteen placentas from infants with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and 170 placentas from infants appropriate for gestational age (AGA) were reviewed for 10 lesion types using standardized criteria. The review diagnosis was compared with original reports.

Results: The review identified 333 lesions, 168 in the IUGR group and 165 in AGA group. Discrepant diagnosis occurred in 137 lesions (41.1%). There was no significant difference in the frequency of discrepant diagnosis between the IUGR (44.7%) and AGA groups (37.6%) (P >.05). Most discrepancies (92.7%) were due to underdiagnosis (identified on review but not mentioned in original diagnosis), but a few (7.3%) were due to misdiagnosis (mentioned in original report but disagreed on review). The common underdiagnoses with their corresponding rates were as follows: hemorrhagic endovasculitis (84.6%), fetal thrombotic vasculopathy (75%), massive perivillous fibrin deposition (68.4%), maternal floor infarction (66.7%), retroplacental hemorrhage (60.6%), intervillous thrombus (57.1%), decidual angiopathy (33.3%), placental infarction (25.4%), acute chorioamnionitis (22.7%), and chronic villitis (21.7%). Misdiagnosis was found in 10 cases: 5 cases of infarction (review diagnosis was perivillous fibrin deposits in 4, intervillous thrombus in 1), 3 cases of acute chorioamnionitis, and 2 cases of decidual angiopathy. Among the 8 general surgical pathologists involved, the frequency of discrepant diagnosis ranged from 31.5% to 58.6% (P >.05). The intraobserver discrepancy rate for the reviewer was 4.8%, significantly lower than the discrepancy rate for the 8 general surgical pathologists.

Conclusion: It is common for general surgical pathologists not to recognize placental lesions, which may have clinical significance. Awareness of this deficiency, standardization of diagnostic criteria, and increased knowledge in placental pathology may improve the quality of diagnosis in this area.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / etiology
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Observer Variation
  • Placenta / pathology*
  • Placenta Diseases / complications
  • Placenta Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies