Specimen fixation

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Specimens for routine histology are required to be placed into 10% neutral buffered formalin, which is available on request from the laboratory. Formalin is used to fix the specimen and preserve the tissue in as life-like state as possible. If there is a delay between the removal of the tissue and fixation in formalin, this can adversely impact the specimen integrity and therefore report.

To ensure proper specimen fixation, the following guidelines should be adhered to:

  • Specimen container – should be appropriately sized and large enough to easily accommodate the specimen
  • Formalin – ensure adequate volumes of formalin are used
    • 1:5 tissue to formalin ratio for very large specimens
    • 1:10 tissue to formalin ratio for small specimens where possible
    • Ensure the details on the specimen pot and request card match, are legible and a formalin hazard label is attached
  • Ensure the lid of the specimen container is securely fastened
  • Use a plastic biohazard sealable specimen bag (where possible) for the specimen pot and place the request card in the pocket

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


(Last reviewed February 2019)