[Histonet] Sectioning

Paul Bradbury histology.bc <@t> shaw.ca
Sat Dec 20 23:03:46 CST 2003

I know you have had a couple of responses to your question already, but 
I thought I should throw my thoughts in too.

Personally, I would hate to sit and just cut for eight houirs straight. 
Unless you have an ergonomically-designed workstation and chair, you are 
asking for all kinds of stress and strains to various body parts ... to 
say nothing about wrist and shoulder problems. Take breaks, divide your 
cutting into shorther sessions, or get someone else to help out.

The actual number of sections cut at the end of an eight hour shift is 
one of those potentially meaningless statistics ... the number is 
dependent on so many variables:
- Are you talking about one sections per block (ie 250 sections from 250 
different blocks) or 250 sections from the same block?
- Are the blocks already trimmed?
- What kind of tissue is being sectioned?
- How thick are the sections?
- How many sections per slide?
- Are your slides prelabelled?
- Do you pick up your own sections?

If the blocks are pre-trimmed, pre-chilled, and you are cutting one 
section per slide, I would consider an average of 2 blocks/slides per 
minute to be reasonable. Any additional work (trimming, loading up the 
cold tray, etc) will slow you down. If you are cutting multiple sections 
from blocks, a higher number of slides should be expected as the amount 
of trimming, securing blocks in the chuck, etc, is reduced.

However, speed is not the critical factor. Quality is. High quality 
sections are essential. Poor quality sections will prevent the 
microscopist from seeing relevant detail. I taught histology for over 20 
years, and one of my standard sermons about section cutting (and many 
other things) was "Get good first ... then get fast !!!"

Don't be too concerned about your speed, ask your "boss" if he is happy 
with the quality of your sections. This is the critical question. Don't 
make a deliberate effort to try to cut fast, speed will come ... with 
practice. Rushing will only reduce quality and put your fingers at risk.


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