Enhancing the Value of Histopathological Assessment of Allograft Biopsy Monitoring

Transplantation. 2019 Jul;103(7):1306-1322. doi: 10.1097/TP.0000000000002656.


Traditional histopathological allograft biopsy evaluation provides, within hours, diagnoses, prognostic information, and mechanistic insights into disease processes. However, proponents of an array of alternative monitoring platforms, broadly classified as "invasive" or "noninvasive" depending on whether allograft tissue is needed, question the value proposition of tissue histopathology. The authors explore the pros and cons of current analytical methods relative to the value of traditional and illustrate advancements of next-generation histopathological evaluation of tissue biopsies. We describe the continuing value of traditional histopathological tissue assessment and "next-generation pathology (NGP)," broadly defined as staining/labeling techniques coupled with digital imaging and automated image analysis. Noninvasive imaging and fluid (blood and urine) analyses promote low-risk, global organ assessment, and "molecular" data output, respectively; invasive alternatives promote objective, "mechanistic" insights by creating gene lists with variably increased/decreased expression compared with steady state/baseline. Proponents of alternative approaches contrast their preferred methods with traditional histopathology and: (1) fail to cite the main value of traditional and NGP-retention of spatial and inferred temporal context available for innumerable objective analyses and (2) belie an unfamiliarity with the impact of advances in imaging and software-guided analytics on emerging histopathology practices. Illustrative NGP examples demonstrate the value of multidimensional data that preserve tissue-based spatial and temporal contexts. We outline a path forward for clinical NGP implementation where "software-assisted sign-out" will enable pathologists to conduct objective analyses that can be incorporated into their final reports and improve patient care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allografts
  • Biopsy
  • Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted*
  • Graft Survival
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted*
  • Microscopy*
  • Organ Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Postoperative Complications / pathology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Workflow