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Applications in diagnostic pathology
In this issue of the Journal of Clinical Pathology, we describe an atlas of breast histopathology, implemented with web based virtual microscopy.1 The article highlights the advantages of virtual microscopy compared with traditional methods for producing educational material in histopathology. The described slide scanning and viewing technology will also enable novel applications, such as large scale quality assurance programmes, virtual slide seminars, and virtual slides as supplements to scientific publications. In this editorial, we describe current and future applications of virtual microscopy, and we discuss how the technology could be refined to allow even further applications in diagnostic pathology.
“Virtual slides archived on a network server can be individually controlled and viewed by a large number of simultaneous users”
The terms “virtual microscopy” and “telepathology” are often confused. Dynamic telepathology refers to remote robotic operation of a motorised microscope and real time transmission of the video image.2 In contrast, virtual microscopy is a form of static telepathology, where digital imaging technology is used to digitise, store, and view slides. A digital representation of an entire slide at the resolution of a high magnification objective is designated a “virtual slide”. The application spectrum of dynamic telepathology is limited by its “live” nature and single user control, whereas virtual slides archived on a network server can be individually controlled and viewed by a large number of simultaneous users. This is the key to a wide range of potential applications of virtual microscopy, from production of educational material to integration into the hospital patient record system.
Educational material in pathology teaching has traditionally been based on printed micrographs and projection slides, and buyers of modern textbooks now often receive a supplemental CD with digital images. Whether digital or not, an ordinary micrograph is limited to a …