Diffractive microscopy in dermatopathology

J Cutan Pathol. 2016 Jan;43(1):18-23. doi: 10.1111/cup.12608. Epub 2015 Oct 8.


Diffraction is the process by which a beam of light is spread out as a result of passing through a narrow aperture or across an edge. Light diffraction can be produced by closing the aperture diaphragm beyond the recommended setting, by flipping the condenser cone down, or by using an opaque object such as the microscopist's hand to block the column of light and force it to bend around the edge. Any of these techniques results in greater refractility of objects in the path of the light. We studied 77 biopsy specimens from a variety of conditions selected to compare the value of diffractive microscopy, and found that it worked best in the evaluation of alopecia, tumor stroma, hemosiderin, argyria and imipramine pigmentation. In amyloidosis stained with Congo red and silica granuloma, polarized microscopy was superior to diffraction microscopy, and neither diffractive microscopy nor polarized microscopy was superior to routine light microscopy in the evaluation of melanin, chrysiasis or ochronosis.

Keywords: diffraction; microscopy; polarization.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alopecia / pathology
  • Amyloidosis / pathology
  • Argyria / pathology
  • Dermatology / methods*
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission / instrumentation*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission / methods*
  • Microscopy, Polarization / methods
  • Silicon Dioxide
  • Skin Diseases / pathology*


  • Silicon Dioxide