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Tips on Packaging Specimens

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Pathology Associates of St. Thomas provides all supplies and requisitions necessary to send specimens to the group. Formalin fixative bottles are provided for your practice to collect skin and tissue specimens. After placing the specimen in the formalin bottle, please make sure that you write the patient’s name, the date the specimen was collected, and the source of the specimen. The source is the place of the body that the skin or tissue was collected (left elbow, right earlobe, etc.). Please make sure that the cap on the formalin bottle is securely tightened before placing the bottle in the biohazard bag we have provided.

The next step is to complete all fields on the requisition in its entirety and attach a copy of patients’ insurance card to the requisition. Please keep the bottom copy of the requisition for your records and place the remaining copies in the biohazard bag along with the collected specimen.

If we haven’t scheduled a recurring time to pick-up specimens at your office, or if you have any questions about how to send a specimen to Pathology Associates of St. Thomas, please call our office at 615-222-6726.

Prepared Slides – (Cervicovaginal, other direct smears)

Certain precautions in the preparation of direct cytological smears, such as cervicovaginal, are necessary to insure adequate material for cytologic evaluation. First and foremost is the prevention of air-drying of the smear which can occur in a few seconds from collection to fixation. A second problem is mix-up of multiple specimens either from the same or different patients. Finally, the slides must be separated during transport to the Cytopathology Laboratory so that material for examination is not scraped off.

These problems may be avoided by adhering to the following procedures:

  1. Always label the slides with the patient's name and specimen type prior to collecting the specimen.
  2. Place a paper clip over the labeled end of the slide to prevent it from sticking to the other specimen type prior to collecting the specimen.
  3. Have the bottle of fixative open and within arm's length before collecting the speciman.
  4. Spread the material quickly on the slide (on the same side as the label) and place it in the fixative IMMEDIATELY. (Note: Check the level of the fixative, as it must completely cover the cellular spread).

Fluid Specimans

As with prepared slides, fluid specimens for cytologic examinations exhibit potential problems which can be avoided by observing a few simple precautions. One frequent cause of less than optimal preparations is degeneration of the cells. This often occurs as a result of improper specimen handling on the ward or clinics. Also, errors in interpretation or incorrect diagnoses can occur if each specimen is not properly identified. To avoid these problems:

  1. Always label the specimen container with the patient's name and body site or source.
  2. If more than one area is sampled, label each container appropriately (ex: Left bronchus, RUL segment, Right pelvic gutter).
  3. Indicate on the pathology request form the exact location and method of collection.
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