College of American Pathologists
Printable Version

  Retention of laboratory records and materials


March 2001
Originally published in CAP TODAY

General laboratory
Accession log records 2 years
Maintenance/instrument maintenance  2 years
Quality control records 2 years
Surgical pathology (including bone marrows)Wet tissue  2 weeks after final report
Paraffin blocks  10 years
Slides 10 years
Reports 10 years
Slides (negative-unsatisfactory)  5 years
Slides (suspicious-positive)   5 years
Fine-needle aspiration slides 10 years
Reports      10 years
Nonforensic autopsy records
Wet tissue    3 months after final report
Paraffin blocks 10 years
Slides 10 years
Reports  10 years
Forensic autopsy records
Wet stock tissue   3 years
Wet tissue of whole organs  3 months
Paraffin blocks      20 years
Reports  Indefinitely
Slides Indefinitely
Gross photographs/negatives Indefinitely
Accession log records   Indefinitely
Serum/CSF/urine  2 years
Whole blood     6 months
Dried blood stain or frozen tissues for DNA Indefinitely
Frozen tissue for toxicology  6 months
Clinical pathology records
Patient test records      2 years

Serum/CSF/body fluids (except urine) 
48 hours
Urine    24 hours
Peripheral blood smears/body fluid smears 7 days
Permanently stained slides-microbiology (gram, trichrome, etc.)  7 days
Cytogenetics records
Slides  3 years
Wet specimen/tissue   Until adequate metaphase cells are obtained
Fixed cell pellet   2 weeks after final report
Final reports 20 years
Diagnostic images (digitized or negatives)  20 years
Blood bank
Donor and recipient records  Indefinitely
Records of employee signatures, initials, and identification codes  10 years
Quality control records  5 years
Records of permanently deferred donors    Indefinitely
Specimens from blood donor units and recipients  7 days post-transfusion