Imagine for a moment you are counseling a patient with a suspicious mass and symptoms that are concerning but nonspecific. Although there are several possible diagnoses, one hangs unspoken between you and the patient—a diagnosis that carries significant morbidity and mortality. You propose an immediate biopsy. After all, a tissue diagnosis is the criterion standard, and this matter is urgent. The patient agrees, and as the patient begins to stand, you raise a hand and mention another test you would like to order. The patient is curious. “What are the benefits of this test?” You explain that the test involves sending a portion of the biopsied tissue to a separate part of the laboratory, where the pathology department will look for other markers of disease. Of course, the patient nods; that makes sense. “If this extra test result is negative, I will be okay, right?” “No,” you answer, “a negative test result does not mean the biopsy result will be negative.” The patient frowns. “Well, is it a bad sign if the test result is positive?” “Not necessarily,” you explain. “Many things can make the other test results abnormal, so we’ll still have to wait on the biopsy results. The biopsy is the key.” The patient sits down again, looking confused. “If the biopsy is so important, why are we wasting tissue on this other test?” “Well,” you glance helplessly toward the window then look back to your frowning patient. “It’s just what we’ve always done in these cases.”
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Cantey JB, Bultmann CR. C-Reactive Protein Testing in Late-Onset Neonatal Sepsis: Hazardous Waste. JAMA Pediatr. 2020;174(3):235–236. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.5684
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