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Arch Pathol Lab Med. 1997 Jan;121(1):11-8.

Mammographically directed breast biopsies: a College of American Pathologists Q-Probes study of clinical physician expectations and of specimen handling and reporting characteristics in 434 institutions.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Mich. 48202, USA.



To determine (1) the information that clinical physicians want in surgical pathology reports of biopsies performed for mammographic abnormalities, (2) how specimens are received and processed, and (3) what information is actually present in pathology reports.


The standard data collection and questionnaire format of the College of American Pathologists' Q-Probes quality improvement program was used. Laboratories (1) surveyed clinical physicians working in selected specialties involved in the care of patients with breast disease concerning what information they wanted in a surgical pathology report, (2) documented laboratory specimen handling for 20 consecutive breast biopsy tissues obtained to investigate mammographic abnormalities, and (3) documented the information content of surgical pathology reports of these cases.


Four hundred thirty-four participating laboratories surveyed 1469 clinical physicians and collected information on 7300 cases regarding specimen processing and report content.


Clinical physicians were unanimous in the majority of items they desired for patient care. The information, however, differed depending on the diagnosis. In processing of tissues, 89% of specimens were received without fixative. In 83% of cases, radiographs were performed. Eighty-two percent of specimens were marked in some manner, but in only 45% of cases was a report of the radiographic abnormality given to the Pathology Department. The median number of blocks used to sample the lesion and the whole specimen was three and six blocks, respectively. The latter correlated with specimen size. Fifty-seven (13%) surgical pathology laboratories had radiography equipment. Radiographs of specimens and tissue blocks were made in 5% and 4% of cases, respectively. Correlation of a mammographic abnormality with a microscopic finding was documented in 62% of reports. In 92% of malignant cases the margin status was reported, and 77% of reports contained the lesion size. Eighty-three percent of reports with invasive carcinoma stated the tumor grade, and 76% stated the extent of intraductal carcinoma. The percentage of reports containing information items was significantly higher (P < .05) for institutions using checklists.


This multi-institutional Q-Probes study describes the current clinical expectations and laboratory practices associated with mammographically directed biopsies. Disparities between pathology reporting and clinician desires, as well as radiology and laboratory specimen handling practices, have been identified and may help focus future quality improvement efforts.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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