Gross Photography


An understanding of anatomy and a thorough gross examination of all specimens are important first steps in the surgical pathology lab. As not all individuals ultimately involved in a case have the opportunity to examine the gross specimen, photography is integral: photographs promote better 3-dimensional understanding of specimens, specifically for those who have not seen the gross; they aid residents, fellows, and attending pathologists signing-out the case; they may ultimately serve as images in book chapters or journal articles.

With this in mind, we actively encourage use of gross photography in the lab, especially for all tumor cases (benign or malignant), interesting and/or complex specimens, and potential legal cases.

For tips on taking good gross photos, please refer to this PDF: GrossPhotography-2019

Camera Equipment

The surgical pathology lab and autopsy suite are equipped with stationary MacroPATH photo stations as well as mobile digital cameras.

Prior to taking a photo with the MacroPATH camera, remember to SCAN the barcode on the requisition so that the appropriate SP number is entered into the software.  For cassette-pickup, SCAN the barcode on the laminated histology pick-up labels. For detailed assistance in using either camera, please contact a PA.

Certain gross-only specimens require photos and certain do not. Please review the list here.

Tips for Good Photos

When taking a photograph of a gross organ, please keep in mind the following pointers:

  • Make sure the background surface is wiped clean of blood, ink, or other marks.
  • Make sure the specimen surface is not stained with ink or covered by tissue fragments.  If it is, please rinse off the specimen under running water or dab off the marks with wet gauze.
  • Center the specimen (or specimen slices) in the frame.
  • Zoom in as far as possible without cutting off the edges of the specimen in the frame.
  • Make sure the specimen is well-lit (recommend one phone with the lightstand on and one photo with it off, as each specimen photographs differently).
  • After taking the photo, evaluate the image to make sure the specimen is in focus, centered and appropriately lit.
  • If you take a photograph of the external or mucosal surface of a specimen, also take a photograph of the cut surface of the lesion.

Objects that REQUIRE a gross photo:

  • Breast implants (not expanders)
  • Bullets
  • Legal cases
  • Cardiac hardware, i.e. AICDs, pacemakers, and leads (returned to manufacturer; make sure both sides including all serial numbers are photographed)
  • ANY object to be returned to physician or patient

Objects that DO NOT require a gross photo:

  • Chemotherapy or Dialysis ports (such as port-a-cath or PD catheters)
  • Orthopedic hardware (arthroplasty revisions)
  • Routine foreign objects (pennies, peas, plastic pieces, etc)
  • IVC filters
  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs)
  • UNLESS the object is to be returned to physician or patient! Then it must be photographed.
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