Developments in telepathology robotic systems have evolved the concept of a 'virtual microscope' handling 'digital slides'. Slide digitization is a method of archiving salient histological features in numerical (digital) form. The value and potential of this have begun to be recognized by several international centres. Automated complete slide digitization has application at all levels of clinical practice and will benefit undergraduate, postgraduate, and continuing education. Unfortunately, as the volume of potential data on a histological slide represents a significant problem in terms of digitization, storage, and subsequent manipulation, the reality of virtual microscopy to date has comprised limited views at inadequate resolution. This paper outlines a system refined in the authors' laboratory, which employs a combination of enhanced hardware, image capture, and processing techniques designed for telepathology. The system is able to scan an entire slide at high magnification and create a library of such slides that may exist on an internet server or be distributed on removable media (such as CD-ROM or DVD). A digital slide allows image data manipulation at a level not possible with conventional light microscopy. Combinations of multiple users, multiple magnifications, annotations, and addition of ancillary textual and visual data are now possible. This demonstrates that with increased sophistication, the applications of telepathology technology need not be confined to second opinion, but can be extended on a wider front.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.