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The impact of involvement of biomedical scientists in specimen dissection and selection of blocks for histopathology: a study of time benefits and specimen handling quality in Ayrshire and Arran area laboratory
  1. F R Duthie1,
  2. E R Nairn2,
  3. A W Milne2,
  4. V McTaggart2,
  5. D Topping2
  1. 1Glasgow Royal Infirmary, 84 Castle Street, Glasgow G4 0SF, UK
  2. 2Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock KA2 0BE, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr F R Duthie
 Department of Pathology, North Glasgow University NHS Trust, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, 84 Castle Street, Glasgow G4, UK;


Aims: To assess possible time benefits of specimen dissection by biomedical scientists (BMSs) and the quality of specimen handling by BMSs, in a department where BMSs trim those specimens requiring simple descriptions, from which standard blocks are taken.

Methods: Specimen handling by BMSs and consultant pathologists was compared. Time taken for each specimen trimmed was recorded prospectively. To determine specimen handling quality, adherence to dissection standard operating procedures (SOPs) was assessed by recording retrospectively whether or not each action in the SOP had been performed. Information on subsequently required extra levels or blocks was recorded.

Results: Analysis of data from 672 specimens trimmed by consultants showed that any given action in the SOPs was performed on average on 60.2% of applicable/assessable specimens; for 660 similar specimens trimmed by BMSs, each action was performed on average on 80.1% of specimens. Of the specimens where data on extra blocks were recorded, extra blocks were required in 3% of those trimmed by pathologists and in 4% of those trimmed by BMSs. Extra levels were required in 12% of those trimmed by pathologists and in 16% of those trimmed by BMSs. BMS trimming saves 16 hours of consultant time each month. The difference between pathologists and BMSs in time for each specimen trimmed is negligible.

Conclusions: The advantages of increased adherence to trimming SOPs and saving consultant time outweigh the relatively small number of extra blocks and levels required when BMSs trim. There is no reduction in quality of dissection.

  • specimen handling
  • laboratory personnel
  • surgical pathology
  • time
  • workload
  • BMS, biomedical scientist
  • PA, pathologist’s assistant
  • SOP, standard operating procedure

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