Special specimens

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In order to gain the maximum amount of information we need to treat certain specimens in a specific way.  In order to do this you need to liaise with us before you take the specimen, to discuss appropriate fixation, if any and transport. 

The following specimens should be sent FRESH immediately following surgical removal and should be discussed with us in advance by telephoning the laboratory on 0161 701 2240 (fresh specimens should be refrigerated whilst awaiting porter/transport to the laboratory):

  • Tumours
  • Lymph node specimens suspicious of tumour
  • Skin biopsies for electron microscopy.
  • Skin biopsies for fibroblast culture are not for histopathology, and should be sent to either the Willink Laboratory or Cytogenetics.
  • Lung biopsies
  • Liver biopsies for metabolic disease (usually glycogen storage disease)
  • Cytology specimens
  • Skin immunofluorescence on skin biopsies from paediatric patients – External provider.  These samples need to be sent unfixed.  However there is no out of hours service.  The on-call paediatric pathologist will be able to advise you what to do.
  • Renal Biopsies
  • Rectal Biopsies
  • Muscle Biopsies

If you are unsure about anything, including whether a specimen should be sent fresh or fixed in formalin, please discuss this with us by ringing either a consultant histopathologist or a senior member of the technical staff (techniques requiring fresh specimens will not be available once the specimen is fixed)

Any other specimens should be fixed in formalin as soon as possible before transport to the laboratory. Formalin fixed specimens should be kept at room temperature.

If there are any queries out of hours then the advice of the on call Consultant Paediatric Histopathologist (contacted through MFT switchboard) should be sought.

Turnaround of specimens is at least 2-3 days for routine formalin fixed specimens. If extra specialist work is required the turnaround time will be increased. Specimens containing bone or teeth require decalcification and this can take days to weeks depending on the size of bone.

Factors that can significantly affect the interpretation of the sample results include poor fixation, drying artefact of unfixed specimens and cauterisation that occur from sampling artefact.

(Last reviewed February 2019)