College of American Pathologists
Printable Version

  Feature Story


cap today

Discover your own innovations

December 2004
Feature Story

Seth L. Haber, MD

I suggested about a year ago that you browse through the hand tools department of a large hardware store, such as Home Depot, to see if any of the items would suggest them selves as potential innovations.

Well, the "mountain has come to Mohammed," and there is no real need for you to journey to the mountain. Home Depot publishes a 104-page Tool Book catalog of items that are just crying out for a job in a pathology department. You can pick up one at the nearest store or, if there is not one convenient to you, request a catalog at 800-628-0849.

The Garrett Wade Tool Catalog, a new edition of which was just released, is another one worth going through if you like fine tools, whether for cutting table, workbench, garden, or office. On pages 8 and 9, for example, there are three fascinating alternatives to the banal staple. All sorts of vises and clamps could be used to hold bony tissue for you to cut. You can request the catalog by calling 800-221-2942 or by surfing

A lab supply company

I don’t know how I missed it until recently, but there is a laboratory supply company, MarketLab (at or 800-237-3604), that has been in business for about 10 years and whose catalog is full of colorful, innovative products. I’ll describe some of the more interesting items to show you why it’s worth requesting MarketLab’s catalog.

Inking tissue margins

You may recall that on pages 120-123 of Innovations in Pathology: The Best of Thirty Years (IIP30), we discussed marking tissues, including the variety of inks that are available. In its fall 2004 catalog, page 151, MarketLab offers an assortment of permanent inks in five colors, plus black. They are packaged in convenient 4-mL disposable squeeze bottles ($48 for 15), and in 2-oz. and 8-oz. bottles ($78). It’s more expensive than mixing them yourself from tattoo pigments, such as from Spaulding and Rogers Manufacturing company, as described in IIP30, but a lot more convenient—and the pigment stays suspended better.

Laboratory marking pens

MarketLab (page 41) also has a convenient marker ($29/10) which, as Henry Ford said of his Model T cars, is available in any color you want—just as long as you choose black. Its advantage, however, is that it has a fine tip and, if used on frosted-end slides, plastics, and glassware, the ink is allegedly resistant to alcohol, xylene, and other solvents you’re apt to use in a laboratory.

In a previous column, I described MarketLab’s Captor ($12/3), into which you lock the cap from the marking pen you use. Then, with screws or the tape that’s included, you can fasten it to your microscope or any other surface. It keeps your slide marking pen moist and convenient. The usual fine-tip lab pens are available ($18/3) in your choice of black, blue, green, or red.

It’s about time

In addition to the usual choice of timers ($14 to $796), MarketLab offers (page 139) a $59 Stat Timer that’s hard to miss or ignore. It was originally designed to keep track of time everywhere but in laboratories, and it did so until MarketLab rescued it. You can set it for up to three functions, the beginnings and ends of which are announced by one of five or six alarms, and the intervals by flashing green, yellow, or red lights.

It’s in the bag

We all have similar problems with minuscule surgical pathology specimens that sometimes show an almost lifelike perverse tendency to crawl out of specimen cassettes and get lost or visit another cassette.

Over the years, we’ve visited and revisited myriad innovative solutions (IIP30, pages 116-118). We’ve tried everything from straining the contents of the specimen container; sandwiching the fragments between blue sponges; and wrapping them in cigarette papers, hair-curler papers, cut-up nylon stockings, and tissue paper (everything but gift wrapping); to overpriced special cassettes with fine holes—and they get lost anyhow. Now, we have MarketLab’s special disposable nylon bags (page 150), which come in the usual sizes: small (11.33 inch, $89 /200 or $389 /M), medium (1.753 inches, $89 /200 or $389 /M), and large (33.75 inches, $199 /500).

These aren’t the first nylon biopsy bags we’ve tried, and I’m sure they won’t be the last. Important minuscule fragments from that malpractice attorney’s pigmented cutaneous lesion will continue to swim off and get lost, but these biopsy bags might help diminish the frequency of such problems.

It’s in the jar

An ingenious system, which stains up to a dozen slides in special convenient racks, is described on page 155. Evaporation from the matte plastic jars, which each take up to 80cc of fluid, is minimized by an integral cover. The jars come in five colors and can be clipped together to create a staining system, as for frozen sections and for special stains.

"If not now, when?"

Timing can be everything. If you’ve been waiting for the ideal time to share your innovations with your colleagues, let me assure you that now is that time. The well is running dry and I’m parched. Please send in your innovations today. Your colleagues and I will be most grateful.

As a gesture of my gratitude, I’ll send you a sample of Pathco Slide Glide for your microscope stage. It provides a uniform white background against which to inspect your slides and has a Teflon coating to make it easier to move the slide.