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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Mathematic Calculations and Applications for the Histology Laboratory. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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What is the Metric System?

The metric system is a modern alternative system of measurement used throughout much of the world, as well as in the United States (US). It is commonly used in laboratories.
The metric system uses a series of prefixes, including deci-, centi-, milli-, micro-, and others, and joins them with one of the 3 base units of measurement, the meter (length), the liter (volume), or the gram (mass or weight). These prefixes are added to indicate larger or smaller measures of the base unit.
Base units most frequently used in the histology laboratory are the liter and the gram. Commonly used prefixes (with their symbols and equivalents) in the histology laboratory include:
Base unit = liter
Prefix + Base UnitSymbolValuePower of 10
Deciliter dL 0.1 L 10-1
Centiliter cL 0.01 L 10-2
Milliliter mL0.001 L 10-3
Microliter µL 0.000001 L 10-6
Base unit = gram
Prefix + Base UnitSymbol ValuePower of 10
Decigramdg0.1 g 10-1
Centigramcg0.01 g 10-2
Milligrammg0.001 g 10-3
0.000001 g 10-6