Electron Microscopy specimen acceptance criteria

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Electron microscopy samples must arrive at the laboratory in suitable sample containers and with relevant requesting information. The specific requirements for both of these are detailed below.

Additionally, it must be established (either by prior arrangement or on the requesting paperwork) from which institution the sample has been referred, the requesting pathologist, where to send the results of the examination and by what means. (NB. Results can only be communicated back to the requesting pathologist or Histopathology department and not directly to Ward clinicians.)

Our Specimen Acceptance Policy dictates that the following essential patient identifiers must be present as a minimum on both the requesting paperwork and the sample container:

  • Family name
  • First name
  • Date of birth
  • Sender’s reference number (e.g. laboratory number)

The following information must be provided on the specimen container and/or the requesting paperwork before the sample is processed since specific processing and/or embedding procedures may be required accordingly:

  • The nature of the tissue (i.e. specimen type)

The following information is requested to be provided on requesting paperwork (or other means). If not provided, but all other acceptance criteria are met, the sample will be processed but may not be examined ultrastructurally until the information is provided, thus increasing turnaround time.

  • Clinical details and/or the specific rationale for EM examination. (NB. This is particularly important for non-renal samples to allow a contextualised, relevant ultrastructural examination to take place. The examination may be delayed until this information is provided.)
  • Notification marking the sample as urgent/priority (if applicable)

The following information is also requested to be provided with requesting paperwork (or other means) but, if absent, would not preclude sample acceptance, processing or examination provided that all other acceptance criteria are met.

  • Full patient address
  • NHS Number (if available)
  • Number of pieces of tissue sent in the specimen container

A summary of specimen acceptance/requesting information criteria

Information required Requesting paperwork Specimen container Either Requesting paperwork or by other means (eg, email to Lead BMS)
Family name Yes Yes
First name Yes Yes
Date of birth Yes Yes
Sender’s reference number (eg, lab number) Yes Yes
The nature of the tissue (ie. specimen type) Yes
Clinical details and/or the specific rationale for EM Yes
Notification marking the sample as urgent/priority Yes
Patient address (preferable but not mandatory) Yes
NHS number (preferable but not mandatory) Yes
Number of tissue pieces sent in the specimen container (preferable but not mandatory) Yes

Discrepancy procedure

In the event that any of the essential patient identifiers are missing from either the paperwork or the sample container, or there is a mismatch of information between them, the sender will be notified.

Provided that three of the four essential identifiers are present and match up, it will be sufficient for the sender to give the correct information over the telephone or via email.

The sample will then be received into the laboratory and processed. However, if this condition is not met, the sample will be placed on hold and not accepted into the laboratory.

The sender will be contacted for advice from the requesting pathologist as to whether the sample should be repackaged and returned for correction or whether there is a clinical need to receive into the EM laboratory and process it straight away.

Please note that if the latter is the case then this advice must be received in an email from the requesting pathologist acknowledging the error and providing the correct information.

For any other discrepancy with respect to the specimen acceptance policy, verbal or email clarification will be sufficient.

Sending previously processed tissue (wax blocks, EM blocks and EM grids)

These should be sent in the form in which they are created at the sending laboratory. They must be accompanied with requesting paperwork conforming to the specifications in our specimen acceptance criteria.

(Last reviewed 19th June 2018)