Problems in Histopathological Technique


Prepared by


IMVS Division of Pathology

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Woodville Road, Woodville, South Australia 5011






Did you know that it is almost impossible to restore good nuclear staining characteristics after tissues have undergone autolysis before fixation?


This is a section of autolysed liver which also shows evidence of putrefaction. Obvious is the poor nuclear staining.


The solution is prompt fixation but that is not always possible especially in some autopsy cases.


One partial solution that I have found does restore some degree of staining to sections, although nothing will restore the degenerative process, is to treat sections with a solution of saturated aqueous picric acid also saturated with mercuric chloride overnight. This solution is hazardous to health because it does contain mercuric chloride and picric acid. So only use it if there is no other alternative then wash in water for one hour to remove excess picric acid or treat with 1% lithium carbonate. The short time here is because we are only dealing with a thin section and not a piece of tissue. Mercury pigment must also be removed after which the sections may be stained.


If all else fails using antigen retrieval techniques has recently gained some favour for tissues which have proven difficult to stain.




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© Roy C. Ellis 2002