BACKGROUND: Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer among both men and women in Norway. The quality of the information given in the histopathological report is crucial for staging and treatment, and standardised reports are recommended. Such standardised schemes for histopathological reporting and surgical specimen handling were introduced from 1 July 1996 and 1 January 1998, respectively. The present study was undertaken in order to evaluate these schemes and to investigate to what extent the procedures complied with international recommendations. MATERIAL AND METHODS: An evaluation of all histopathological reports from 390 patients operated for colorectal carcinomas and registered at the Department of Pathology of the Central Hospital of Rogaland 1 July 1996 to 30 June 1999. RESULTS: The standardised schemes were used in 184 of 193 cases of surgical specimen handling (95%) and in 381 of 390 cases of histopathological reporting (98%). The quality of the histopathological reports, was in good agreement with international recommendations with respect to most data items. However, the average number of 9.0 lymph nodes sampled was below the minimum of 12 recommended by the International Union Against Cancer. In 29% of the cases, less than six lymph nodes were found. INTERPRETATION: Although the standardised schemes were used almost uniformly, the schemes did not ensure by themselves that all data items were in accordance with international recommendations. The fact that too few lymph nodes were sampled, was only detected during the present evaluation. Thus, any introduction of standardised schemes should include a regular follow-up to ensure that predefined goals are attained.