Design-based stereology: Planning, volumetry and sampling are crucial steps for a successful study

Ann Anat. 2014 Jan;196(1):3-11. doi: 10.1016/j.aanat.2013.04.011. Epub 2013 May 19.


Quantitative data obtained by means of design-based stereology can add valuable information to studies performed on a diversity of organs, in particular when correlated to functional/physiological and biochemical data. Design-based stereology is based on a sound statistical background and can be used to generate accurate data which are in line with principles of good laboratory practice. In addition, by adjusting the study design an appropriate precision can be achieved to find relevant differences between groups. For the success of the stereological assessment detailed planning is necessary. In this review we focus on common pitfalls encountered during stereological assessment. An exemplary workflow is included, and based on authentic examples, we illustrate a number of sampling principles which can be implemented to obtain properly sampled tissue blocks for various purposes.

Keywords: Cavalieri method; Design-based stereology; Fractionator; Systematic uniform random sample; Volumetry.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Anatomy / instrumentation*
  • Anatomy / methods*
  • Animals
  • Anisotropy
  • Cell Count
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Microscopy / instrumentation*
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • Microscopy, Electron / methods
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Specimen Handling