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Discordance in the histopathologic diagnosis of difficult melanocytic neoplasms in the clinical setting


David N. Silvers, MD, Department of Dermatology, Columbia University, 630 W 168th Street, VC-15-207, New York, NY 10032, USA
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Background:  The gold standard for diagnosing melanocytic neoplasms is by histopathologic examination. However, lack of agreement among expert dermatopathologists in evaluating these tumors has been well established in experimental settings.

Objective:  This study examines the discordance among dermatopathologists in evaluating difficult melanocytic neoplasms in a clinical setting where the diagnosis impacts patient management.

Methods:  Retrospective review of consultation reports over a 6-year period.

Results:  There was complete agreement among the consultants in 54.5% of the cases. However, a high level of disagreement was found in 25% of the cases.

Limitations:  The analysis was limited to two consultant dermatopathologists.

Conclusions:  There are limitations to the practical applications of histologic criteria for diagnosing difficult melanocytic tumors. It is not malpractice for a pathologist to have rendered a diagnosis that did not predict clinical outcome as long as ‘standard of care’ has been followed in his/her evaluation of the specimen.

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