Observer variation in the histopathological classification of thymoma: correlation with prognosis.
AIMS--To assess the ability of three histopathologists, experienced in thoracic surgical reporting, consistently to classify thymomas as cortical, medullary, or mixed pattern tumours. METHODS--Three histopathologists classified 74 thymomas (none frank carcinomas) as of either cortical, medullary, or mixed pattern, on two separate occasions. Kappa statistics were used to assess inter- and intra-observer agreement. Tumour type was compared with surgical stage as a predictor of biological behaviour. RESULTS--Inter- and intra-observer agreement were only moderate (kappa 0.48 and 0.52, respectively). For only 26 of 74 tumours could a categorisation be consistently agreed on. Follow up information was obtained for 73 cases, with a mean follow up period of five years. The prognoses for those 26 of 74 cases appeared to be at variance from previously reported studies, and showed internal inconsistency, with the mixed pattern category showing a worse survival than the cortical category. For the group as a whole, however, stage at presentation was related to survival, with an overall five year survival of 78% (100% for stage I, 84% for stage II, 27% for stage III and 0% for stage IV). CONCLUSIONS--The classification of thymomas into cortical, medullary, or mixed pattern tumours is difficult to apply. Surgical stage remains a better guide to prognosis.