[Histonet] Need your help explaining that an automatic microtome does not relieve tediousness with tissue sample preparation.

Rene J Buesa rjbuesa <@t> yahoo.com
Sun Feb 26 10:43:11 CST 2012

Hi Teresa:
What you describe is the result of repetitive actions while completing your histology assignments, and is a cumulative result.
The microtome issue surfaced in 1995 (17 years ago!) but I am sure that you started your histology career earlier.
Forceps while  embedding and sectioning produce pain in the base of the thumb, but usually not in the elbow. Writing usually affects the wrist. The elbow is mostly affected by the rotatory movement required to move the wheel of a manual microtome. Also it accumulates during the years.
Also the work volume is a factor, along with the years during which the repetitive actions have taken place.
I have seen articles published on the subject on Laboratory Medicine and other journals (I do not have the references). You could make a Google search with  "ergonomics in histology", "injuries in laboratory personnel" and the like and I am sure you will get some interesting results.
At the moment you have to change the way you complete your tasks, otherwise your symptoms will worsen.
René J. 

--- On Sun, 2/26/12, Teresa harris <TeresaJHarris <@t> msn.com> wrote:

From: Teresa harris <TeresaJHarris <@t> msn.com>
Subject: [Histonet] Need your help explaining that an automatic microtome does not relieve tediousness with tissue sample preparation.
To: histonet <@t> lists.utsouthwestern.edu
Date: Sunday, February 26, 2012, 2:14 AM

Dear Histonet,

I have been employed by the same agency since 1993 as a histotechnologist.  I am responsible for histology, cytology and autopsies.  I am the only full-time technologist.  I even do the medical transcription when necessary.

One day I couldn't lift my coffee cup without severe pain.  I was diagnosed with severe lateral epicondylitis, right elbow.  Personally, I feel that the forceps I used to embed tissue and pick up ribbons of tissue from the microtome and spread that tissue out on the water bath was partially to blame.  It could also have been caused by labeling slides and blocks with a marker, scraping excess paraffin off the blocks, lifting gallons of chemicals to change the tissue processor and stainer, lifting bodies on and off the autopsy table, using the cryostat for frozen sections or from using the microtome.  Another possible cause would be the logging in of specimens into the computer or filing slides and blocks or staining slides.

Anyway, I need your help with a well-reasoned explanation.  I will quote the paragraph word for word that requires such explanation to help my cause.

"In preparing tissue samples for examination, this Office has been advised that a manual microtome was replaced in 2005 with an automatic microtome which requires the touch of a finger to start.  To the extent that you would've been exposed to any tediousness associated with tissue sample preparation, it seems that any upper extremity problem attributable to your exposure would've been while the manual microtome was still in use or within a reasonable period after it was retired.  Any delay in any onset of any upper extremity problem associated with this activity requires a well-reasoned explanation."

Well it sure took more than pushing a button to make that slide.  That much I am sure about.  We need to keep up the good work at educating those who have no idea what a histotech does.

Thank you for any explanations you want to kindly share.

Teresa Harris, HT, HTL(ASCP)QIHC
TeresaJHarris <@t> msn.com

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