Packaging histology samples

We’ve had some ‘interesting’ histology submissions lately, so we thought it was a good time to remind you of how samples should be packaged to avoid disasters and to best preserve the samples for examination.

Photo 1: Formalin fixed sample received in a plastic glove and cardboard box.

Please do:

> Submit histology samples separately from any specimens for cytology (don’t put sample containers in the same specimen bag as cyto slides). Formalin fumes adversely affect the staining of smears impacting diagnosis.

> Put tissue samples in wide mouth jars, as fixed tissue becomes quite firm and warps in fixation; whilst you may have been able to squeeze it into a container, it can then conform to the shape of the container and may be impossible for us to retrieve it without cutting it or breaking the container.

> Use appropriate leak-proof specimen containers, to ensure the samples pose no biological or chemical risk during transport or on receipt at the laboratory. And make sure the lids are on tight. Please do not use food containers or repurposed pill bottles or teat seal containers, and definitely no gloves (photo 1).

> Use an adequately sized container – the rule of thumb for tissue:formalin volume is 1:10.

> Place some absorbent material in the specimen bag just in case the sample leaks.

> Provide a detailed clinical history and include some drawings or send some photos if you think it will help.

> Put the submission form in the pocket on the outside of the sample bag so it stays nice and dry and legible.

> Give us a call to discuss any tricky samples, we’re happy to help any way we can.

More information is available on our website:
· Vet Handbook – General information histology
· How to package a sample for transport