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Storage of specimens

Prior to transport to the laboratory, it may be necessary to temporarily store specimens. All specimens that are placed into formalin should be kept at room temperature until transported to the laboratory. Specimens in formalin should not be placed in the fridge as this will have a negative impact on fixation and therefore preservation of the tissue.

Specimen Storage
Formalin Room temperature
Dry unfixed Fridge
Zeus Fixative Room temperature/Fridge

All dry specimens and specimens in Zeus Fixative ideally should be transported to the laboratory immediately. Where this is not possible, these specimens should be stored in the fridge temporarily and transport should be arranged as soon as possible.

Transport of specimens

All specimens should be transported in the relevant fixative. All specimen pots should be tightly sealed and transported using specimen bags, where appropriate. The request card should be placed in the pocket of the specimen bag, and the pot inside the sealed bag to ensure the safety of all staff.

Specimens from theatres are delivered to our specimen reception throughout the day. These specimens should be recorded when delivered to maintain the necessary records.

All specimens sent via Royal Mail should be packaged according to the guidance available on the Royal Mail website. It is the responsibility of the sender to ensure that specimens are appropriately labelled and packaged.


Specimen tracking

Many of our service users have systems in place to track specimens. If specimen acceptance criteria are applied at the time of tracked receipt, the specimen can be returned to the sender quickly should any discrepancy be identified.

Appropriate action in the event of a specimen acceptance failure involving fresh tissue (e.g. frozen section, gel sample) or an Urgent / HSC 205 sample is decided at the discretion of the reporting pathologist. The decision to accept and process pending confirmation may be taken by the reporting pathologist. It is the responsibility of the Pathologist to communicate this within the report.


(Last reviewed May 2023)