Virtual microscopy: an evaluation of its validity and diagnostic performance in routine histologic diagnosis of skin tumors

Hum Pathol. 2010 Dec;41(12):1770-6. doi: 10.1016/j.humpath.2010.05.015. Epub 2010 Sep 24.


Digitization of histologic slides is associated with many advantages, and its use in routine diagnosis holds great promise. Nevertheless, few articles evaluate virtual microscopy in routine settings. This study is an evaluation of the validity and diagnostic performance of virtual microscopy in routine histologic diagnosis of skin tumors. Our aim is to investigate whether conventional microscopy of skin tumors can be replaced by virtual microscopy. Ninety-six skin tumors and skin-tumor-like changes were consecutively gathered over a 1-week period. Specimens were routinely processed, and digital slides were captured on Mirax Scan (Carl Zeiss MicroImaging, Göttingen, Germany). Four pathologists evaluated the 96 virtual slides and the associated 96 conventional slides twice with intermediate time intervals of at least 3 weeks. Virtual slides that caused difficulties were reevaluated to identify possible reasons for this. The accuracy was 89.2% for virtual microscopy and 92.7% for conventional microscopy. All κ coefficients expressed very good intra- and interobserver agreement. The sensitivities were 85.7% (78.0%-91.0%) and 92.0% (85.5%-95.7%) for virtual and conventional microscopy, respectively. The difference between the sensitivities was 6.3% (0.8%-12.6%). The subsequent reevaluation showed that virtual slides were as useful as conventional slides when rendering a diagnosis. Differences seen are presumed to be due to the pathologists' lack of experience using the virtual microscope. We conclude that it is feasible to make histologic diagnosis on the skin tumor types represented in this study using virtual microscopy after pathologists have completed a period of training. Larger studies should be conducted to verify whether virtual microscopy can replace conventional microscopy in routine practice.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Remote Consultation*
  • Skin / pathology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Skin Neoplasms / surgery
  • Telepathology / instrumentation*
  • User-Computer Interface