BACKGROUND: Italian External Quality Assessment (IEQA) Program in Cytogenetics, established in 2001 by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS), covers both Constitutional and Oncohaematological diagnosis. In 2013, performance criteria were defined and adopted. In this paper, we present the data from the first 4 years of activity (2013-2016) following the introduction of performance criteria.
METHODS: The enrollment is voluntary, fee-based and open to both public and private Italian laboratories. The scheme is annual and retrospective; a national panel of experts assess technical, analytical and interpretative performance.
RESULTS: Overall, 95 distinct Italian laboratories participated in different Cytogenetics IEQA schemes over the 2013-2016 years and most of the laboratories took part in Constitutional diagnosis. General hospitals and local health centers represented 40% of the total participants and the percentage of laboratories from Northern Regions was more than 45% of total participants throughout the 4-year period. As regards the performance evaluation, on average, 11, 9 and 23% of participants were marked as poor performers in Prenatal, Postnatal and Oncohaematological schemes, respectively. With regard to critical errors, ISCN nomenclature in Prenatal and Postnatal schemes, and interpretation in Oncohaematological diagnosis, were identified as main issues. On the other hand, karyotype errors and inadequate analysis decreased strongly, over the 4 years, in Constitutional and Oncohaematological diagnosis, respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: Our data show that the introduction of poor performance encourages laboratories to address critical issues, and the IEQA participation helps to improve quality in cytogenetic testing.