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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Basic Tissue Orientation and Paraffin Embedding Technique. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Uncomplicated Specimens

For larger tissue specimens without complicated margins or stratified layers, the orientation is simply to find the cut surface. Most of these types of specimens will be embedded flat on this cut surface so that the cut surface is placed flat against the block face (bottom, most recessed surface of the mold). Your main concerns will be with getting the specimen as flat as possible and leaving a border of paraffin surrounding the outside edge of the tissue. It is helpful to place at a slight angle, any tissue which is dense or rigid in the block face, as this will aid microtomy. Examples of tissue types which might be easiest to cut at a slight angle are uterus body, thyroid, and prostate gland wedges. Large fatty pieces, such as large sections of breast tissue or lipomas, may not have a distinct cut edge, but should be embedded to show the greatest surface area. It is important to also be sure to leave a heavy border of paraffin to help contain the fatty tissue and hold the section together on the water bath during microtomy.

The primary goal in large tissue piece orientation is to ensure flatness and solidification in one plane within the block.