Digital pathology has been around for years and on the radar of many pathologists, clinicians, and lab workers. However, many still question what it is, if it’s viable, and how it can work for their specific situation. Digital pathology has made many advancements over the past several years, with companies emerging with the goals of simplifying digital pathology and providing quality patient care. The reality is, when utilized correctly, digital pathology is viable, beneficial, and is the future of cancer treatment.
What is Digital Pathology?
Digital pathology is the process of analyzing, storing, and sharing pathology image information digitally. Tissue samples are processed, sectioned, and placed on glass slides, then scanned to be stored in a digital database where they are shared as well as interpreted/diagnosed digitally and even remotely.
How has Digital Pathology Evolved?
Digital pathology has been infamous for its need for expensive, space-occupying equipment and complex integrations, so many labs avoided it. However, through advancements in technology, digitizing slides has become practical. Now scanners are smaller, faster, and companies like Lumea have created digital software that integrates various requisite components into a single device, like a tablet. Also, companies such as Deep Bio and Aira Matrix, have developed integrated AI designed to assist in analyzing and diagnosing the digitized tissues.
Third-party AI vendors integrate with Lumea on the digital platform
What are the Benefits of Digital Pathology?
Digital pathology allows for easier information sharing, case distribution, consultation, and education. Newer developments are promising increased efficiency, error reduction, diagnostic assistance, automated Quality Assurance, optimized molecular testing, and even replacement for various current special testing.
Why is it beneficial to digitize and create a high quality image of tissue? Because once digitized, the images can be distributed anywhere immediately and are available for various specialized analytics, some using artificial intelligence (AI). However, there is a possibility for delay while waiting for slides to be scanned and when navigating the digitized image. Because of this, there needs to be more pros than cons to make digital pathology viable. Recent technology has made this possible. Lumea has added various devices and software enhancements that more than compensate for the additional time of digitizing slides, making it beneficial for pathologists, clinicians, labs, and most importantly, patients. Previously it would have taken weeks for patients to receive results from a biopsy, now they can receive their diagnosis and second opinions faster as well as track the progress of their results with their clinician.
Make Digital Pathology Work For You
With solutions that start at the time of the biopsy, digital pathology is useful and applicable to the clinic, lab, and pathology suite.
In the Clinic
As in the lab, most digital pathology does not involve the patient clinics; however, Lumea’s technology actually begins when the tissue sample is taken, using tools to improve the chain of custody and retain tissue orientation. While these tools are utilized at the time of the biopsy, the benefits continue between the lab and clinic with increased efficiency, error reduction via reduced tissue transfer steps, and preservation of tissue integrity and orientation that allow for additional clinically-relevant information to be conveyed to the clinician. Additionally, Lumea’s software helps ensure that the correct additional testing (e.g., molecular testing) is done on every patient when appropriate. Clinicians can also readily order second opinions directly from the system.
RFID tracking available at the time of the biopsy with BxView®
Also, Lumea offers RFID tracking that begins in the clinic. Now the clinic has visibility into the histology and pathology progress of the biopsy. This enables the clinic to take the guesswork out of the waiting process and also equips them with beneficial information for patient communications. The lab can forecast predicted case volumes for the next day and plan accordingly, share this valuable information with the clinic, and clinicians and patients alike have peace of mind knowing the location of samples and when results are available.
In the Lab
Most digital pathology does not directly affect the lab until glass slides are created. Without digital pathology, they would be distributed to pathologists to evaluate under a microscope; however, when employing digital pathology, there is an additional scanning step where a whole slide image is created. Management and storage of the images are also required in addition to storage of the glass slides and tissue blocks. To improve this process, Lumea has developed tissue-handling devices that require much less technical time, retain tissue orientation, reduce tissue fragmentation, and even increase tissue yield on the slide. Ann Marzuco, a histotechnologist, said of Lumea in the lab, “It’s really revolutionized what we’ve done in the lab… I would never go back.” (Read the full story here). New AI technology is also available for use in the lab, with Lumea’s grossing camera. This product reduces grossing time and allows AI to measure biopsy fragments and overall simplify and improve lab processes.
Visual of the BxBoard®
In the Pathology Suite
Pathologists are no longer tied to one location, as they can view the scanned slide from a computer or tablet of their choosing. Previously, pathologists would need to wait for shipping depending on where they and the samples were located, and samples might be broken in transit. Using digital software, pathologists can view, annotate, and create notes for each tissue sample. These are all stored in one system and are easily shareable. AI software can also analyze tissue samples for a variety of features to aid the pathologist in making the correct diagnosis and even which samples are best for further testing. Digital pathology also allows for unique viewing options like the simultaneous side-by-side viewing of multiple sections, and even automated Quality Assurance testing (both being developed by Lumea).
Other digital pathology solutions are still tied to one location involving large monitors. With Lumea, there are no geological constraints, and can be accessed on a tablet.
Advancing Digital Pathology
As mentioned above, Lumea has the latest technology in digital pathology and is continually striving to improve diagnostic processes through the creation of new cancer diagnostic tools. Here are several tools that are used in Lumea’s digital pathology:
Tissue Transportation: Lumea has created the BxBoard®, a special glass case that stores separate chips, preserving tissue orientation and integrity while they are transported.
Tissue Storage: The BxChip® is a proprietary tissue-mimetic device that securely holds tissue samples through processing, embedding, and microtomy. It maintains orientation and allows for multiple samples to be segregated and tracked separately by the software, even allowing for annotation-based diagnosis creation. This revolutionary device significantly saves lab time, improves tissue yield, and allows the pathologist to not only save time but also provide additional information to clinicians about orientation not previously possible.
Visual of the BxChip
Grossing Camera: The Smart Tissue Camera® takes an image of the gross specimen, and AI-enhanced software can detect, count, and measure biopsy fragments. This both simplifies and accelerates the grossing process, allowing flexibility for where and when grossing is performed.
Digital pathology is the future of high quality patient care, but until now has been fraught with obstacles that have prevented wide adoption. With recent innovations in integrating image management, LIS, AI, and various innovative devices, more clinics, labs, and pathologists can transition to digital pathology. In this new era, digital pathology will help medical professionals provide accurate diagnoses and optimal treatment plans, while simplifying the pathology process from clinic to lab to pathologist and back to the patient.