Are you responsible for preparing pathology slides for interpretation? Has your facility begun using digital pathology to enhance and optimize your services? Do you worry about the reliability of digital pathology?
A June 2020 study, compared the difference between glass and digital slides. Their results showed a 100% diagnostic equivalency between the two. During the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the FDA has encouraged the use of digital pathology to meet healthcare needs.
Specimen preparation affects the reading of pathology slides. This is true for digital pathology as well. Continue reading to learn about common mistakes to avoid when preparing pathology specimens.
Benefits of Digital Pathology
Digital pathology is gaining ground throughout the medical community. It lets specialists and subspecialists consult on cases from any location via digital equipment. The following describes several advantages of using digital pathology.
Improve Data Analysis
Some digital pathology systems use algorithms to automate slide analysis. Then creates a more objective, accurate, and time-efficient method for diagnosis. Pathologists can review findings as needed to verify results.
This also allows scientists to review sets of digital slides. These scientists can then explore long-term predictive analytics.
Access to Data
Digital pathology tools include automatic storage systems which decrease the risk of misidentification. This makes retrieval of data quicker. It also eliminates problems with misplacing or breaking slides.
Digital samples can provide more views of specimens. Scientists can now magnify and study the slide from different angles. They can also take measurements from many areas of interest.
One of the greatest benefits of digital pathology is the optimization of productivity. There’s no longer a need for pathologists to reside at every site. They can work from one location and quickly review specimens remotely.
Pathologists can also rapidly find the current slide and any previous specimens for comparison. Traditional systems often slow the diagnostic process while trying to locate specimens. This also improves healthcare for many remote locations with intermittent pathology needs.
Improved Patient Outcomes
Decreasing the turn-around time for diagnosis benefits patients. Waiting for a diagnosis is very stressful. By obtaining a quick diagnosis, anxiety decreases, and treatment planning can begin sooner.
With digital pathology, the diagnostician gains more experience by processing more specimens. This enhances their expertise and diagnostic accuracy. This has a direct impact on the patients and their outcomes.
As the adage goes, “time is money”. Digital pathology systems deliver specimens to pathologists as soon as they’re prepared. This eliminates delivery wait times.
The pathologist makes a diagnosis and immediately sends the results back to the facility. A hospital in Pennsylvania reported a cost-saving of $12.4 million in the first 5 years after beginning digital pathology. That equals an annual cost savings of $219,000.
Avoiding Mistakes When Using Digital Pathology
You must ensure that your digital pathology system is efficient and effective. This means that specimen preparation must meet the highest standards. Otherwise, specimen loss or misinterpretation may occur.
1. Prevent Lost Samples
One traditional problem in pathology has resulted from the mislabeling of specimens. This can lead to catastrophic problems. Digital pathology decreases the risk of specimen mishandling or loss.
Specimens are placed in virtual slide trays that include a two-dimensional barcode tracking system. Pathologists can confirm the correct assignment of each digital slide.
2. Optimize Color Staining
A big obstacle in tissue preparation is the variability of color in stained tissue. This is even more of a problem if systems use algorithms to assist with slide interpretation.
Often varied staining or imaging protocols change the color. The different appearance of the sample isn’t related to the tissue properties.
This problem is even observed within the same institution. An imaging processing tool, called color normalization, helps mitigate this issue.
It transforms the color properties of a digital image. This aligns the image to a single standard.
Thus, you have a reduction in the overall staining variability of the specimen. The color of the image is forced to adhere to a set color standard. This makes visualization and interpretation easier.
3. Properly Process Whole Slide Images
Incorrect processing schedules or replenishing or sequencing of processing reagents can destroy a specimen. The sample may be rendered inappropriate for sectioning. If whole tissue specimens aren’t correctly prepared, you’ve lost the entire sample.
No one wants to tell the patient and family that their procedure was for nothing. Thus, labs must ensure that all specimens undergo proper preparation for pathologic examination.
4. Ensure the Immediate Prep of Fresh Specimens
Another issue can arise if specimens aren’t handled and fixed soon after removal. The best scenario involves tissue fixation at the site of removal. If this isn’t possible, it should go to the lab as soon as possible following dissection.
5. Follow Correct Blocking Procedures
Personnel must follow specific protocols for fixing specimens. Begin by placing it in a liquid fixing agent such as formalin. This agent goes into the tissues causing changes that harden and preserve the tissue.
The next step involves removing as much water from the tissue as possible. Ethanol is often used for this purpose. An intermediate solvent is then introduced to clear the ethanol.
Histological wax is infused into the tissue to form a “block. The tissue is then placed in a microtome.
The microtome slices extremely thin sections that are then placed on the slides. Any mistakes in this process can lead to a poor slide sample for diagnostic purposes.
Are You Ready to Change to Digital Pathology?
If your facility is new to or considering using digital pathology, it’s important to follow strict preparation protocols. Specialists Direct can assist you and provide the digital pathology services you need. Our team of U.S. Board-Certified pathologists and subspecialists provide STAT interpretations and second opinions.
Contact us today to learn more about our services.