Improving diagnostic accuracy and interobserver concordance in the classification and grading of primary gliomas

Cancer. 1997 Apr 1;79(7):1381-93. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0142(19970401)79:7<1381::aid-cncr16>;2-w.


Background: Accurate histologic diagnosis of gliomas is fundamental to proper patient management and to the interpretation of basic and clinical investigations. Diagnostic accuracy and reproducibility are compromised by the subjective histologic criteria currently used to classify and grade gliomas.

Methods: The histologic features of 4 sets of gliomas (a total of 244 cases) were reviewed independently by 4 neuropathologists to determine interobserver diagnostic concordance rates. Cases wherein diagnostic disagreements arose were reviewed jointly to identify and refine the histologic criteria that were adversely affecting diagnostic reproducibility. Using the criteria developed in the study, a set of 315 gliomas with known survival data was evaluated in order to validate the usefulness of the criteria.

Results: There was significant improvement in diagnostic concordance with each session (P = 0.02). For the first session, the concordance rates were as follows: all 4 reviewers, 52%; any 3 reviewers, 60%; 2 reviewers, 70%. For the fourth session, the respective rates were 69%, 75%, and 80%. Although features important in grading, particularly microvascular proliferation, were sometimes problematic, most disagreements related to the classification of tumors. Much of the improvement related to the refinement of criteria distinguishing diffuse astrocytomas from oligodendrogliomas/oligoastrocytomas and pilocytic astrocytomas. It was concluded that the presence of any typical oligodendroglioma was sufficient to remove a tumor from the astrocytoma category.

Conclusions: The authors' data indicate that oligodendroglial tumors comprise up to 25% of gliomas, a significantly higher proportion than was previously recognized. The data also suggest that the wide range of survival times reported for patients with anaplastic astrocytoma may reflect "contamination" resulting from misdiagnosis, particularly of oligodendroglial tumors and pilocytic astrocytomas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Glioma / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Observer Variation
  • Reproducibility of Results