Innovative cancer scheme to be expanded in Sheffield hospitals

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals' Digital Pathology Team OF Dr Branko Perunovic, Dr Jonathan Bury, Directorate Manager Louise Dunk and Lead Labs Manager Emma Colgan
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals' Digital Pathology Team OF Dr Branko Perunovic, Dr Jonathan Bury, Directorate Manager Louise Dunk and Lead Labs Manager Emma Colgan
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A service to provide faster diagnoses to Sheffield cancer patients undergoing operations is being expanded.

Greater use is to be made of a digital pathology service that enables experts to identify cancerous tissue more quickly.

Slides can be viewed remotely on a computer - allowing histopathologists based at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital to provide a rapid diagnosis while the patient is still in the operating theatre at the Northern General Hospital.

The system has been developed and implemented by the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust’s Laboratory Medicine and Informatics teams for the intraoperative frozen sections service.

Frozen sections are analysed when immediate information is essential - for example, to determine whether tissue is cancerous to guide the surgeon during the course of an operation.

Tissue is removed from a patient’s body during surgery or a biopsy and sent to the histopathology laboratory, where it is processed and cut into thin sections, mounted on glass slides and analysed under a microscope.

This plays a pivotal role in cancer diagnosis and analysing the extent of cancer within the body, which helps determine treatment options.

The digital system speeds the process up by enabling microscope slides to be scanned at high resolution and then viewed remotely on a computer screen instead of a microscope.

Slides scanned near the operating theatres at the Northern General Hospital can be viewed by experts at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, providing a faster and safer service for patients. It is now planned to expand the use of the service.

The implementation of the service has been led by Dr Jonathan Bury, Clinical Lead for Histopathology.

He said: “We have started the process of conversion to digital pathology using the intraoperative frozen sections service.

“It is a relatively small number of cases, but this is a clinically critical application.

“We have shown that digital pathology could benefit patients, save consultant and operating theatre time and reduce costs.

“Digital pathology has great potential; it can give us more flexibility and make us a very attractive place to work. This will be very important in a very competitive histopathology job market.”