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What is Digital Pathology?

Digital pathology incorporates the acquisition, management, sharing and interpretation of pathology information — including slides and data — in a digital environment. Digital slides are created when glass slides are captured with a scanning device, to provide a high-resolution digital image that can be viewed on a computer screen or mobile device.

Figure 1: Evolution of Digital Pathology over time.

Utilizing high-throughput, automated digital pathology scanners, it is possible to capture an entire glass slide, under brightfield or fluorescent conditions, at a magnification comparable to a microscope. Digital slides can be shared over networks using specialized digital pathology software applications. Automated image analysis tools can also be applied to assist in the interpretation and quantification of biomarker expression within tissue sections.

The history of digital pathology goes back over 100 years, when specialized equipment was first used to capture images from a microscope onto photographic plates. The concept of telepathology — transmitting microscope images between remote locations — has been around for nearly 50 years. However it is in the past decade that pathology has begun to undergo a true digital transformation, moving away from analog into an electronic environment. The rapid progress of whole slide imaging (WSI) technology, along with advances in software applications, LIS / LIMS interfacing, and high-speed networking, have made it possible to fully integrate digital pathology into pathology workflows.

Digital pathology enables pathologists to engage, evaluate, and collaborate rapidly and remotely, with transparency and consistency, thus improving efficiency and productivity. The future of digital pathology could eventually encompass enhanced translational research, computer aided diagnosis (CAD) and personalized medicine.

This reference document is presented as a service to health care professionals by Leica Biosystems and has been compiled from available literature. Although every effort has been made to report faithfully the information, Leica Biosystems cannot be held responsible for the correctness. This document is not intended to be, and should not be construed as medical advice. For any use, the product information guides, inserts and operation manuals of the various drugs and devices should be consulted. Leica Biosystems and the editors disclaim any liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of drugs, devices, techniques or procedures described in this reference document.

For Research Use Only. Not for use in diagnostic procedures. Clinical diagnostic use claims discussed in this article have not been reviewed or cleared by FDA for use in the U.S.