A study of Gleason score interpretation in different groups of UK pathologists; techniques for improving reproducibility

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To test the effectiveness of a teaching resource (a decision tree with diagnostic criteria based on published literature) in improving the proficiency of Gleason grading of prostatic cancer by general pathologists.


A decision tree with diagnostic criteria was developed by a panel of urological pathologists during a reproducibility study. Twenty-four general histopathologists tested this teaching resource. Twenty slides were selected to include a range of Gleason score groups 2–4, 5–6, 7 and 8–10. Interobserver agreement was studied before and after a presentation of the decision tree and criteria. The results were compared with those of the panel of urological pathologists.


Before the teaching session, 83% of readings agreed within ± 1 of the panel's consensus scores. Interobserver agreement was low (κ = 0.33) compared with that for the panel (κ = 0.62). After the presentation, 90% of readings agreed within ± 1 of the panel's consensus scores and interobserver agreement amongst the pathologists increased to κ = 0.41. Most improvement in agreement was seen for the Gleason score group 5–6.


The lower level of agreement among general pathologists highlights the need to improve observer reproducibility. Improvement associated with a single training session is likely to be limited. Additional strategies include external quality assurance and second opinion within cancer networks.

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