Aims: Although the synoptic format is being increasingly used for primary cutaneous melanoma pathology reporting, no study assessing its value has yet been reported in the literature. The aim was to determine whether the use of synoptic reports increases the frequency with which pathological features that may influence prognosis and guide management are documented.
Methods and results: Melanoma pathology reports (n = 1692) were evaluated; 904 were in a synoptic format [671 Sydney Melanoma Unit (SMU) reports and 233 non-SMU reports] and 788 were non-synoptic (184 SMU reports and 604 non-SMU reports). Reports (n = 1354) from 677 patients who had both a SMU report and a non-SMU report were compared. Almost all features were reported more frequently in synoptic than in non-synoptic reports (P < 0.001). No significant differences were found in the frequency of reporting the main pathological features between SMU and non-SMU synoptic reports. Synoptic reports were more frequently used by SMU (78%) than by non-SMU pathologists (28%).
Conclusions: This is the first study to provide objective evidence that synoptic pathology reports for melanoma are more complete than non-synoptic reports (regardless of whether the reports are generated within or outside a specialist melanoma centre). All synoptic reports should include the facility for free text, be tailored to individual institutional requirements and be updated regularly to be of maximal value.