The application of digital pathology to improve accuracy in glomerular enumeration in renal biopsies

Avi Z. Rosenberg, Matthew Palmer, Lino Merlino, Jonathan P. Troost, Adil Gasim, Serena Bagnasco, Carmen Avila-Casado, Duncan Johnstone, Jeffrey B. Hodgin, Catherine Conway, Brenda W. Gillespie, Cynthia C. Nast, Laura Barisoni, Stephen M. Hewitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background In renal biopsy reporting, quantitative measurements, such as glomerular number and percentage of globally sclerotic glomeruli, is central to diagnostic accuracy and prognosis. The aim of this study is to determine the number of glomeruli and percent globally sclerotic in renal biopsies by means of registration of serial tissue sections and manual enumeration, compared to the numbers in pathology reports from routine light microscopic assessment. Design We reviewed 277 biopsies from the Nephrotic Syndrome Study Network (NEPTUNE) digital pathology repository, enumerating 9,379 glomeruli by means of whole slide imaging. Glomerular number and the percentage of globally sclerotic glomeruli are values routinely recorded in the official renal biopsy pathology report from the 25 participating centers. Two general trends in reporting were noted: total number per biopsy or average number per level/section. Both of these approaches were assessed for their accuracy in comparison to the analogous numbers of annotated glomeruli on WSI.Results The number of glomeruli annotated was consistently higher than those reported (p<0.001); this difference was proportional to the number of glomeruli. In contrast, percent globally sclerotic were similar when calculated on total glomeruli, but greater in FSGS when calculated on average number of glomeruli (p<0.01). The difference in percent globally sclerotic between annotated and those recorded in pathology reports was significant when global sclerosis is greater than 40%. Conclusions Although glass slides were not available for direct comparison to whole slide image annotation, this study indicates that routine manual light microscopy assessment of number of glomeruli is inaccurate, and the magnitude of this error is proportional to the total number of glomeruli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0156441
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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