In part 1 of this blog series, we reviewed key takeaways from Dr. Thomas Lemarchand’s segment in the webinar titled “Evolution of AI and Digitization in Precision Pathology and Image Analysis,” which is available to watch on demand here.
This is the second and final blog post in the series. Here, we’ll focus on the latter half of the webinar, presented by StageBio Digital Pathology Manager Derick Vollmer as he covers the processes, tools, and benefits of digital pathology. Keep scrolling to learn about digital pathology workflows, the process behind creating digital-ready slides, and more. Or, watch the webinar for an in-depth look at these topics
An overview of the common digital pathology workflows
Mr. Vollmer is quick to note that digital pathology as a capability is growing rapidly—and that means its workflows continue to evolve at a near-constant pace. To capture the benefits of digital pathology, he states that workflows should be reviewed and revised on a consistent basis across five key aspects.
The five aspects of the digital pathology workflow:
- Histology (slide production and slide QC/digital readiness)
- Imaging (slide scanning and image QC)
- Data transfer (image data and metadata)
- Data capture (evaluation and image analysis)
- Archiving (data backup solutions and materials return)
Data security that protects information acquired and shared throughout the digital pathology workflow is also vital.
The required components of the digital pathology workflow
Digital pathology readiness starts with histology. And that’s because the first step to analysis and quantitative pathology is acquiring digital images. This means scanners that can digitize slides are key, and they should be assessed on their quality aspects, imaging speeds, and the pros and cons of each model.
Digital pathology readiness requires the ability to:
- Automatically scan slides
- Focus on the smallest area/focal plane
- Capture all tissue on each slide
- Automate data flow
For example, teams at StageBio use the 3D HISTEC P1000 scanner, which has the capacity to scan up to 1,000 slides automatically. This level of automatic scanning has resulted in profound improvements to StageBio’s digital pathology workflows.
Automatic scanning encompasses more than simply loading a slide into a scanner; it relies on:
- Consistent tissue quality
- Standardized tissue staining
- Consistent cover slipping
- Barcoded slide labels
Only with these elements in place can automatic scanning minimize user involvement to the lowest possible point.
Capturing all tissue
Once a slide is in the scanner, you obviously want an accurate representation of the slide in high-magnification images. This requires a scanner that can:
- Capture small tissue particles
- Include lightly stained tissue regions
- Represent colors accurately
If a scanner can detect the lightly stained tissue regions with accurate color representation, then high throughput scanning can be achieved. And for digital consistency, you should be able to validate your scanner settings to ensure the color profiles used match as closely to the glass slide as possible.
Limiting focal planes
One early challenge of digitization of glass slides with a scanner is that digital scans live in an “image only” reality. Traditionally, a pathologist can review a slide at high magnification by adjusting the focal points through the tissue using their microscope.
Meanwhile, even though scanners historically have z-stack scanning, the ability to scan multiple planes is impractical because doing so is such a time-consuming task. To overcome this, tissue should be flat on the slide and scannable in a single focal plane. This saves on scan times as well as file size, while allowing pathologists to evaluate tissue fully without having to change focal plane. Doing so relies on:
- A consistent focal plane without z-stack
- Limiting out-of-focus scan tiles and stitching artifacts
Once you have the necessary scanned images, your digital pathology workflow’s success hinges on the ability to move images and metadata from the scanner to the proper storage location where information is easily accessible.
StageBio uses an image management service (IMS) known as Pathcore Flow, which provides a centralized hosting location for all scanned images. Additionally, we rely on a laboratory information management system (LIMS) to capture tissue metadata (block, section, number, tissue type, stain type, etc.) automatically. Both the IMS and the LIMS eliminate manual data entry, make content readily available to the pathologists who need it, and ensure that the digital pathology workflow moves forward at a fast pace.
Benefits of digital pathology
With digital pathology:
- Images are readily accessible by anyone from anywhere
- Slide-loading through the image analysis software and the IMS software allows for direct review of results in the analysis method development between multiple contacts
- Peer review across various sites/locations is possible
- Major time and cost savings are achieved
Watch the webinar for more information on digital pathology
Take a more in-depth look at the benefits of digital pathology—and what kinds of technologies and processes are needed to ensure your digital pathology workflows are effective and efficient. Watch the on-demand webinar.
Do you want to learn more about the advancements in digital pathology AI tools? Contact StageBio to learn more.