For many people, a trip to the dermatologist’s office means getting moles or tissue biopsied. But have you ever stopped to think about where the tissue that has been removed is sent and who reviews it, before you are called back and informed that it was benign or malignant? The job of a histotechnician is to prepare and stain tissue slides so they can be reviewed and diagnosed under the microscope by a pathologist. In preparing these slides, histotechs may preserve tissue using special dye, so it can be examined later without decaying. Special dyes are also used so the pathologist is able to distinguish different structures within tissue when looking through a microscope. They may also perform electron microscopy or enzyme biochemistry procedures on the tissue. There are some instances where a histotech will prepare frozen tissue sections for the pathologist so they can perform a rapid diagnosis.
The job of a histotech is focused mainly on preparing the tissue for a pathologist to review. The pathologist can then determine if disease is present and if it is spreading, to decide the best course of treatment for the patient.
What is histotechnology?
The early practitioners in this field include Robert Hooke who in 1664 cut sections of cork to observe under a microscope. Leeuwenhoek, in 1670, used a razor to cut sections from a bovine optic nerve, a quill, and dried flowers. The field of histotechnology as we know it today involves studying the composition of abnormal and normal tissue. In this field, histotechnologists use a variety of dyes and chemicals to stain the tissue. Histotechs must have a solid understanding of the composition of these chemicals and how they interact when combined so as not to mix the wrong ones. In addition, histotechnologists must also understand the composition of tissue.