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4 Tips to Buying a Microtome

What should you look for when purchasing a Microtome? Here, we offer 4 tips that will help you through the process. These tips are meant to be a helpful reminder of important considerations when buying a microtome. Once you know what the considerations are, the next step is determining which microtome is best for your needs.

TIP 1: Safety and Ergonomics

Safety and Ergonomics

Keeping the lab environment and the staff safe are always of prime importance. Consider a microtome that provides the following safety measures:



  1. Multiple safety locks on handwheel - locking it in the upper position for safe specimen or blade exchanges, or any position for safe specimen orientation.
  2. A blade guard that covers the blade during breaks to eliminate user contact with the blade.
  3. Emergency stop button on the instrument housing or foot switch for immediate stop of the motor in case of an emergency.
  4. To prevent uncontrolled starting of motorized sectioning, requiring two separate buttons to be pressed.
  5. The hand wheel handle of the motorized rotary microtomes can be centered to avoid injury while working in motorized mode.
  6. The object head balance can be adjusted dependent on the object clamp size and weight to prevent it accidentally dropping into the knife while sectioning quickly.
  7. The blade can be safely inserted or removed from the blade holder without the risk of injury.
  8. If preferring a manual rotary microtome, make sure that the coarse feed wheel is as close to the user as possible to allow prolonged ergonomic comfort.

TIP 2: Good Section Quality is Crucial for Patient Care

Good Section Quality is Crucial for Patient Care

Because laboratory personnel are entrusted with human tissue, quality always comes first. When cutting sections from patient tissue, every section counts.

  1. High quality sections are a result of multiple factors: precision, stability and quality of the individual components, including the following:
    • The precision of the feeding mechanism.
    • The stability of the microtome to ensure vibration-free sectioning.
    • Quality of the components e.g. knife holders, specimen clamps and associated consumables (blades).
  2. Precise specimen-orientation with zero point reference allows rapid aligning of the block and is ideal for re-cuts.
  3. Using an optional electric specimen cooling device results in uniform section quality as the result of controlled specimen temperature.

TIP 3: Reliability / Brand Reputation of the Product

Reliability / Brand Reputation of the Product

Ask yourself the following questions to narrow down your choices:

  1. Should I consider Used versus New?

    Buying new provides peace of mind knowing the equipment has no prior history. Buying from a used equipment supplier bears the risk that the product has not been updated according to the guidelines of the manufacturer and thus does not work properly. Buying factory-refurbished equipment ensures that the instruments have been updated with original spare parts by trained personnel with factory warranty.

  2. What are your peers saying?

    Seek out others that use microtomes and find out what works/doesn’t work. This includes site visits, customer product reviews, blogs, etc. This will help you gain the perspective needed for a decision in your lab.

  3. What companies/products are recognized as reliable in the industry?

    Consider how long a company has been in the industry. More importantly, does the have a high level of customer service to ensure you are supported throughout the entire process - from Sales, to delivery/installation, to after sales support.

TIP 4: Maintenance and Service

Maintenance and Service

A microtome is built to last, but when a service call is required, ensure that it is serviced appropriately by the manufacturer.

  1. Confirm there are manufacturer-compliant and qualified engineers available to repair the microtome to extend its useful life.
  2. Ensure the appropriate parts are available to service instrument to factory settings. Many third-party service providers may not have access to parts, and/or may not have immediate availability to parts, which can lead to downtime, ultimately affecting turnaround time and patient care.