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Utility of whole slide imaging and virtual microscopy in prostate pathology

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Whole slide imaging (WSI) has been used in conjunction with virtual microscopy (VM) for training or proficiency testing purposes, multicentre research, remote frozen section diagnosis and to seek specialist second opinion in a number of organ systems. The feasibility of using WSI/VM for routine surgical pathology reporting has also been explored. In this review, we discuss the utility and limitations of WSI/VM technology in the histological assessment of specimens from the prostate. Features of WSI/VM that are particularly well suited to assessment of prostate pathology include the ability to examine images at different magnifications as well as to view histology and immunohistochemistry side‐by‐side on the screen. Use of WSI/VM would also solve the difficulty in obtaining multiple identical copies of small lesions in prostate biopsies for teaching and proficiency testing. It would also permit annotation of the virtual slides, and has been used in a study of inter‐observer variation of Gleason grading to facilitate precise identification of the foci on which grading decisions had been based. However, the large number of sections examined from each set of prostate biopsies would greatly increase time required for scanning as well as the size of the digital file, and would also be an issue if digital archiving of prostate biopsies is contemplated. Z‐scanning of glass slides, a process that increases scanning time and file size would be required to permit focusing a virtual slide up and down to assess subtle nuclear features such as nucleolar prominence. The common use of large blocks to process prostatectomy specimens would also be an issue, as few currently available scanners can scan such blocks. A major component of proficiency testing of prostate biopsy assessment involves screening of the cores to detect small atypical foci. However, screening virtual slides of wavy fragmented prostate cores using a computer mouse aided by an overview image is very different from screening glass slides using a microscope stage. Hence, it may be more appropriate in this setting to mark the lesional area and focus only on the interpretation component of competency testing. Other issues limiting the use of digital pathology in prostate pathology include the cost of high quality slide scanners for WSI and high resolution monitors for VM as well as the requirement for fast Internet connection as even a subtle delay in presentation of images on the screen may be very disturbing for a pathologist used to the rapid viewing of glass slides under a microscope. However, these problems are likely to be overcome by technological advances in the future.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-04-01

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