Cytology: investigations available and specimen requirements

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This page contains details of the cytology investigations performed by the ophthalmic department and the various specimen requirements:

Cytology investigations

Cytology is the investigation of small samples of dispersed or dissociated cells and other tissue components devoid of natural tissue architecture.

Specimens for cytological investigations include surface impression cytology and cytology of fluid such as tears, aqueous, vitreous, or fluid from cystic lesions.

Cytological investigation provides a preliminary diagnostic impression and should not be regarded as providing a definitive diagnosis.

The practice of cytology is difficult and if there is uncertainty about its use in a particular case, it is preferable to discuss the case with the consultant pathologist prior to obtaining the specimen.

Cytology specimen requirements

Impression cytology discs should be submitted in a pot containing formalin in a manner similar to histology specimens.

Vitrectomy specimens: We prefer to receive a formal pars plana vitrectomy in a cassette or bag. If samples are required for microbiology, virology or PCR etc please remove these from the cassette/bag first. These samples need to be fixed in an equal volume of 10% neutral buffered formalin

Small volume cytology specimens: the syringe used in the collection of the sample may be submitted with the fluid inside. Needles must be removed and the syringe capped. The specimen should be fixed using an equal volume of 10% formalin drawn up into the same syringe. Indication should be made on the request form as to whether the specimen is fixed or not.

Please do not send unfixed specimens from outside hospitals unless by same day courier.

If microbiological investigation is required, the requesting clinician must submit a separate specimen to an appropriate microbiology service.

It is not possible for this laboratory to split a specimen under sterile conditions.


(Last reviewed 30th May 2017)