Prospective peer review in surgical pathology

Am J Clin Pathol. 1995 Nov;104(5):560-6. doi: 10.1093/ajcp/104.5.560.


Quality assurance (QA) in surgical pathology has focused primarily on retrospective audits of randomly selected cases. The authors describe an effective method of prospective audit for a selected class of surgical specimens--diagnostic biopsies--and document the benefits, additional staff time required and impact on turnaround time. Additionally, these results were compared with a retrospective review. During a 6-month period, all diagnostic surgical pathology biopsies (n = 2,694, 55% of all cases) were reviewed by a second pathologist before release of the final report. Errors detected were subdivided into four categories: (1) major: errors in diagnosis that could directly affect patient care; (2) diagnostic discrepancies: errors in diagnosis that should not affect patient care; (3) minor: correct diagnosis rendered, but report correction required to add supportive information; (4) clerical: typographical and grammatical errors. Thirty-two major errors were found, involving 1.2% of cases reviewed. This manner of review caused an increase in overall turnaround time from 1.62 days to 1.79 days, and an increase in turnaround time for diagnostic biopsies from 1.44 days to 1.50 days. Time spent in performing prospective peer review averaged 4 hours per day. For comparison, results were included from a retrospective review performed on 480 of the 5,556 cases accessioned in a 6-month period before the institution of prospective quality assurance. This retrospective review revealed eight major errors (1.7%). In conclusion, the prospective peer review of diagnostic biopsies yields sufficient benefits in increased accuracy of diagnostic reports to justify the slight increase in additional work by pathologists.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Diagnosis-Related Groups
  • Diagnostic Errors*
  • Humans
  • Pathology, Surgical / standards*
  • Peer Review, Health Care / methods*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors