Autopsy diagnoses of malignant neoplasms: How often are clinical diagnoses incorrect?

Elizabeth C. Burton, Dana A. Troxclair, William P. Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Context. - Autopsy often reveals new diagnoses of malignant neoplasms, but as technological advances to improve diagnosis during life have improved, autopsy rates have declined dramatically. Objective. - To determine if there is still a high discordance rate between clinical and autopsy diagnoses of malignant neoplasms despite increasing technological advances in diagnostic methods. Design and Setting. - A 10-year retrospective study (1986-1995) of all autopsies performed at the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans. Participants. - All patients autopsied, excluding preterm fetuses, at the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans, by both Tulane and Louisiana State University Schools of Medicine in which consent was obtained or authorization given from the Orleans Parish Coroner's Office. Main Outcome Measures. - Discordance between clinical and autopsy diagnoses of malignant neoplasms. Results. - A total of 1625 cases were reviewed of which 520 preterm fetuses were excluded. Of the remaining 1105 cases, 654 were male and 451 were female. The mean age was 48.3 years (range, 1-98 years). A total of 433 neoplasms were diagnosed, 250 of which were malignant. One hundred eleven malignant neoplasms in 100 patients had been either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, and in 57 patients, the immediate cause of death could be attributed to the malignant neoplasm. The discordance between clinical and autopsy diagnoses of malignant neoplasms in this study is 44%, which is similar to previously reported studies. Conclusion. - The discordance rate between clinical and autopsy diagnoses of malignant neoplasms is large and confirms the importance of the postmortem examination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1245-1248
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of the American Medical Association
Volume280
Issue number14
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 14 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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