Interobserver variability for the WHO classification of pulmonary carcinoids

Dorian R.A. Swarts, Robert Jan Van Suylen, Michael A. Den Bakker, Matthijs F.M. Van Oosterhout, Frederik B.J.M. Thunnissen, Marco Volante, Anne Marie C. Dingemans, Marc R.M. Scheltinga, Gerben P. Bootsma, Harry M.M. Pouwels, Ben E.E.M. Van Den Borne, Frans C.S. Ramaekers, Ernst Jan M. Speel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


Pulmonary carcinoids are neuroendocrine tumors histopathologically subclassified into typical (TC; no necrosis, <2 mitoses per 2mm2) and atypical (AC; necrosis or 2 to 10 mitoses per 2mm2). The reproducibility of lung carcinoid classification, however, has not been extensively studied and may be hampered by the presence of pyknotic apoptosis mimicking mitotic figures. Furthermore, prediction of prognosis based on histopathology varies, especially for ACs. We examined the presence of interobserver variation between 5 experienced pulmonary pathologists who reviewed 123 originally diagnosed pulmonary carcinoid cases. The tumors were subsequently redistributed over 3 groups: unanimously classified cases, consensus cases (4/5 pathologists rendered identical diagnosis), and disagreement cases (divergent diagnosis by ≥2 assessors). kvalues were calculated, and results were correlated with clinical follow-up and molecular data. When focusing on the 114/123 cases unanimously classified as pulmonary carcinoids, the interobserver agreement was only fair (κ=0.32). Of these 114 cases, 55% were unanimously classified, 25% reached consensus classification, and for 19% there was no consensus. ACs were significantly more often in the latter category (P=0.00038). The designation of TCs and ACs by ≥3 assessors was not associated with prognosis (P=0.11). However, when disagreement cases were allocated on the basis of Ki-67 proliferative index (<5%; ≥5%) or nuclear orthopedia homeobox immunostaining (+; -), correlation with prognosis improved significantly (P=0.00040 and 0.0024, respectively). In conclusion, there is a considerable interobserver variation in the histopathologic classification of lung carcinoids, in particular concerning ACs. Additional immunomarkers such as Ki-67 or orthopedia homeobox may improve classification and prediction of prognosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1429-1436
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgical Pathology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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Copyright © 2014 by Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.


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