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Advancements in histopathological laboratory technology often offer increased productivity benefits that are of critical importance to the continued provision of histology services; many protocols for laboratory working have been established over decades of practice and application, but is your lab missing out by not using an automatic microtome?
The Art of Microtomy
Microtomists are talented individuals, microtomy requires unparalleled attention to detail, tissue samples are unique and precious specimens that histologists must handle with extreme care. Microtomy is a vital and critical step in specimen processing, inaccuracies see misdiagnosis, patient anxiety and loss of unique samples.
Manual processing employs visual management that many microtomists find assuring to achieve confidence in the sample quality. Manual operation of a rotary microtome allows for observation of every specimen as it’s cut when trimming; microtomists can assess the accuracy in carefully exposing the tissue surface when sectioning: the quality of the ribbons can be assessed by eye, allowing for issues such as wrinkling to be addressed in real-time.
Microtomes are a core instrument in the histo lab and manufacturers have been improving on its established original design promising to increase sectioning quality and enhance output by motorizing features that could only be achieved through manual effort historically, but does automation enhance microtomy?
Increases to throughput are the primary advantage that automatic rotary microtomes can offer a lab, faster sectioning results in reduced turnarounds and patients receive diagnosis quicker. By automating some or all of the trimming and sectioning process, lab technicians can also benefit from an improved working position and a reduction in repetitive movements; ultimately contributing to their long-term working welfare, enabling them to enjoy microtomy for longer.
Pathology is experiencing a widespread decline in job applicants, quality candidates are becoming scarcer yet demand is on the increase, this mandates that laboratory managers are under pressure to maintain process times under increased pressure and enhanced budgetary constraints, advancements in microtomy could help alleviate part of this problem.
According to Cancer Research UK, incidence rates for all cancers combined are projected to rise by 2% in the UK between 2014 and 2035 (Cancer Research UK), due to population growth and increasing adoption of unhealthy lifestyle factors that contribute to its rise. Histo services are unlikely to see a decline in demand for their services, further straining histology resource that is already limited by funding and increasing demand.
Is it right for me and my lab?
So, if automatic or semi-automatic rotary microtomes can provide benefits like greater workflow and specimen output, why don’t all laboratories automate trimming and sectioning in their lab?
Sectioning is still one of the most time-consuming elements of the histological process, correction of any non-conformities can increase the overall time the microtomist will have to spend on each specimen. Automation in conjunction with high-quality blades allows the user to meet the requirements necessary for ensuring maximum performance in sectioning of tissue samples. Sections can be cut accurately at 0.5 microns over and over again, greatly reducing operator dependent variables.
By removing the need to manually trim and section, challenges arise when a deviation from established working patterns occurs, especially for those that have interfaced with microtomes manually as part of established protocols for most of their professional lives. Trialing equipment and enabling pathologists to gain practical experience and exposure to the instrument before committing to adopting automated microtomy full-time helps gain confidence in automated microtomy and additional output benefits.
Microtomy is an art, perfected over years of training and experience; advancements in rotary microtomes provides greater specimen processing providing opportunity to minimize patient anxiety, improve histology workflow and contribute to a happier, more productive laboratory
If you’re unsure about automating trimming and sectioning in your histology lab, why not book your free demonstration and trial the Galileo Series 2 Microtome in your lab?