Superiority of virtual microscopy versus light microscopy in transplantation pathology

Clin Transplant. 2012 Mar-Apr;26(2):336-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-0012.2011.01506.x. Epub 2011 Sep 29.


Virtual microscopy has begun to change conventional pathology practice. We tested the reliability of this new technology in transplantation pathology. We studied 40 kidney transplant biopsies for cause and compared reproducibility of Banff scores using virtual slides versus glass slides. Three glass slides per biopsy were scanned as high-resolution digital slides using Aperio ScanScope. Three pathologists independently reviewed the biopsies: twice by glass slides and twice by virtual slides. Eleven histopathological lesions were scored and used to construct diagnosis according to Banff criteria. The intra-observer reproducibility of Banff scores was substantially good using either virtual slides or glass slides (mean κ: 0.69 vs. 0.64, p>0.05). The inter-observer reproducibility of Banff scores was better in virtual slides than in glass slides (mean κ: 0.42 vs. 0.28, p<0.001). Among the lesions, transplant glomerulopathy scoring by virtual slides showed the highest inter-observer reproducibility, with a similar accuracy to glass slides. The agreement for acute rejection between virtual and glass slides was not different from the agreement between two readings of glass slides. Thus, virtual microscopy is a reliable and more reproducible technology and has several advantages over glass slides, e.g., accessibility via internet, no fading. We recommend virtual microscopy for transplant diagnostics, including utilization for clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy*
  • Female
  • Graft Rejection / pathology
  • Humans
  • Kidney / pathology*
  • Kidney Diseases / pathology*
  • Kidney Transplantation / pathology*
  • Male
  • Microscopy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Observer Variation
  • Pathology, Clinical
  • User-Computer Interface*
  • Young Adult