Each year about 1.75 million people get a cancer diagnosis in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.
And in 2018, 609,640 people died of various cancers, according to the center.
The person who ultimately makes the determination of a cancer diagnosis is the pathologist. You are probably familiar with this doctor because of how they are portrayed on television. Writers often depict forensic pathologists as the grizzled veterans of autopsies. These characters work in stainless-steel examination rooms.
But the forensic pathologist is just one type of pathologist. Many more of these doctors analyze slides containing properly prepared tissue samples. And they diagnose a host of illnesses for treatment.
50 million pathology reports are sent to English GPs a year, according to the Royal College of Pathologists.
Pathology is seeing a technological boom. Common, glass slides are getting a digital transformation through whole slide images. Even how slides are prepared, edited, and stored is changing. Telepathology is the use of telecommunications and the internet to enrich the study of pathology. These innovations are changing how doctors practice medicine.
Let’s take a look at how telepathology is changing slide preparation and revolutionizing the study of disease.
Of Glass and Steel
While searching for the cause of the disease is as old as medicine itself. Modern pathology took off in the mid-19th century when the optics of microscopes were perfected.
Many consider Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902) as the fathers of modern pathology. His student Johannes Muller (1801-1858), is also well regarded. Their work using microscopes in tissue analysis was groundbreaking.
At the same time, scientists developed better ways to prepare slides using aniline dyes, Chromic acid, and formaldehyde.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, glass slides and ways to store physical samples are giving way to high-definition digital images. These can be viewed in real-time by pathologists or specialists in another part of the world while the patient is in an operating room.
The Scanning of a Pathology Slide
What is whole slide scanning?
Whole slide scanning is the process of taking glass slides and converting them into high-resolution images. It is also called virtual microscopy.
There are inadequate benefits to telepathology and whole slide scanning. The markedly most apparent ones are the evaluation of samples in real-time. Also, ease of sharing and storing original images for long periods of time without degradation is beneficial.
There are three types of whole slide scanning. They are called multispectral, fluorescent, and the most common, brightfield.
Brightfield scanning is where light is uniformly illuminated and then the sample appears as a dark image. In fluorescent scanning, you expose a sample to a molecule capable of producing fluorescent light. You then expose the sample is to ultraviolet light, and an image is produced. In multispectral imaging, the least used, images depict a variety of light signatures.
Image capture and scanning are also called virtual slide systems. These are some of the most effective ways to generate high-resolution digital slides. Virtual slide systems can get the most accurate results from telepathology.
Also, users should keep in mind some basic protocols when it comes to working their telepathology scanners.
Proper care should be made in preparing the tissue sample. You should use acceptable sizes and avoiding staining, folds, and air bubbles.
Slides should also be clean when you scan them. Fingerprints and specks of dirt can ruin a slide scan. Damaged slides can also cause problems with accurate scans and even damage your telepathology scanner. Make sure to check the slide for any imperfections before you attempt to scan it.
Storing the Pathology Slide
Due to the high-resolution, these virtual slide systems need a lot of storage space either on physical or cloud-based servers. This makes them some of the more expensive systems on the market.
Also, converting the whole slide image to smaller file sizes, say a JPEG, can result in some information loss.
Overall, the virtual slide systems that create whole slide images are, in general, more useful than other systems. The other systems are real-time or image-based. Yet, the cost of setup and data storing for virtual slide systems may be something to consider.
Do you plan to do a lot of pathology work with your telepathology scanner? Will you keep the results long-term? The answers to these questions will help you decide if you want to commit to these more expensive systems.
Purchasers should make some consideration of whole slide image telepathology scanners that the images will only be as good as the monitor or projector that they are viewed on or through.
Every case is different, but an educator with an underpowered projector might run into trouble. Or a pathologist with a monitor without enough screen resolution might not see images clearly. These items should be carefully correlated with your telepathology setup.
Virtual slide systems have a lot of uses, and you should compare them alongside image-based and real-time systems.
Image-based items are less effective than virtual slide systems in many cases. Yet, they are less costly, and only some microscopic images can be digitized.
Real-time systems are really remote-controlled robotic microscopes. An operator and a pathologist can use the apparatus from almost anywhere to view samples in real-time. The video is usually encrypted and can be stored for analysis at a later date if needs be.
The Future of Images
The history of pathology stretches to the ancient Egyptians. In context, telepathology and whole slide imaging of pathology slides are just in its infancy.
In the future, three-dimensional imaging through telepathology will soon be upon us. These 3-D images will supply a greater context for pathologists. They will also allow for greater clinical diagnosis and sample violation.
Also, expect more integration between multispectral imaging and standard whole slide imaging. This integration will produce more data on tissue samples.
For more information about whole slide imaging and telepathology, contact us today