How reliable is pathology testing?

A test's reliability is monitored through rigorous quality standards and controls practised by the laboratory. 

Firstly we address four important statistical concepts that define the ability of a test to measure what is happening in our bodies. These are precision, accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity - concepts that are sometimes misused and misunderstood in discussions of pathology laboratory tests.

Next, we discuss quality control and the use of reference ranges. Laboratories have in place strict quality procedures and they need relevant accreditation to assure the quality of each test result. We outline a number of the steps taken to uphold the trust that your doctor has in the test results.

We also discuss the role of testing in medical decision-making and the importance of interpreting test results in a broad medical context for a reliable diagnosis.


Last Review Date: April 3, 2013