Specimen handling: routine histology

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Specimens should be placed in pots of 10% Neutral Buffered Formalin, which are provided on request from Histopathology. These will have appropriate labels, which include hazard warnings.

All specimens placed in Formalin should be stored at room temperature and not in the fridge prior to transport to the laboratory.

Information on the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) guidelines can be obtained from the department.

To ensure adequate preservation, the following guidelines must be followed:

  • Use a specimen pot that is appropriate to the size of the specimen, allowing for at least a 1:5 tissue/fluid ratio for very large specimens and 1:10 for small specimens where possible.
  • Ensure that details requested on the label are provided and written legibly.
  • Patient details on the request card and specimen pot MUST match. Wherever possible printed patient labels should be used to aid in the timely and accurate identification of specimens.

Transfer the specimen to the fixative solution as soon as is practicable after its removal from the patient. Ensure the lid is securely fastened.

For transportation (where the pot size allows), the pot should be placed within a Biohazard, sealable plastic bag with pocket for the request card.

Always keep the request card and the specimen pot together and ensure that patient confidentiality is protected.

Specimens arriving within the Trust are transported by the various portering services. Advice on transportation of specimens and how to proceed if there is a spillage of formalin should be available in all theatres. If there are any queries contact histology on 0161 276 8808.


(Last reviewed February 2019)