An accurate diagnosis is a prerequisite for all pathology applications, as patients’ lives depend on the results. Because the quality of the specimen image acquired via the microscope solution can impact the accuracy of diagnosis, the performance of the microscope optics is crucial.
To make confident and accurate diagnoses, a pathology microscope must deliver high image quality at all levels of magnification, from the specimen overview seen at low magnification to the fine details resolved at higher magnification.
For this reason, the optical performance and compatibility of a microscope with user needs is considered a priority.
To reveal the fine details of specimens, rapid and precise focus is essential. Rapid switching between coarse, medium, and fine focus, to go from overview to details and acquire image data for documentation, can lead to increased efficiency and faster review of specimens.
Ergonomics can be defined as the science of refining product designs, so they are optimized for comfortable and efficient use.
Optimal ergonomic operation of a microscope is possible with a symmetrical layout of the stage drive and focus knobs. The shoulders remain level, the spine is straight, and the arms can rest at a comfortable angle without stretching.
In the diagnostic environment, users regularly employ their microscope for extended periods of time, often many hours per day. Poor microscope design or setup, which does not match the body frame size of the user, can result in bad posture and muscle tension, because the user will have to twist or strain their body to be reach and use the main controls and functions of the microscope. In this situation, the muscles of the neck and shoulders, as well as the forearms and wrists, are under constant strain which can lead to fatigue, stress, and even serious injury like repetitive strain injury (RSI).
The user’s working position is predominantly determined by the necessity to look into the microscope eyepieces. For regular, routine use, the microscope should be easily set up to match the body frame size of the user. In addition, it should be easy to make regular, minor adjustments during the workday so that users can alter their body position while working when necessary. Microscope height adjustments can ease strain on the user’s back, neck, and shoulders, while ensuring controls are within comfortable reach. This eliminates the need to stretch and allows forearms to rest comfortably on the desk.
The Pathology Solution Suite from Leica Microsystems has a broad selection of microscope solutions and ergonomic accessories, allowing it to be tailored to the users’ needs.
In addition to the customizable setup and accessories, the layout of the microscope control elements should not be forgotten. A microscope with a symmetrical arrangement of controls helps users maintain good posture. When microscope controls are not arranged symmetrically, users will instinctively twist their shoulders and spines to reach them. The result is an unnatural distortion of the body and the consequence of that can be pain at the end of a long working day.
To allow the user to speed up operation and have one hand free for other tasks, such as operating a counting machine or taking notes, it should be possible to operate the control elements, such as the stage drive and focus knobs, with just one hand.
Furthermore, for proper posture, the light intensity control must be easy to reach. With some microscopes, optional footswitches can be used which also free the hands for other tasks.
There are also personal preferences with regard to operating a microscope. For example, if the stage drive should be for a right- or left-handed user. A microscope that makes it fast and easy to change the drive from right to left and vice versa, without the need for a new stage, can be a decisive advantage for users. This benefit is particularly true when multiple users share a microscope or the defined work tasks often change.
Microscope automation is often not widely adopted for pathology applications due to the unfortunate perception that it is not fast enough and could slow down throughput of high workload disciplines. However, microscope automation can increase efficiency and speed significantly. For example, a motorized nosepiece, that works at least as fast as changing the objectives by hand, supports the pathology workflow and relieves the hands from repetitive tasks and unnecessary movements.
Automation actually improves efficiency. An example is the toggle mode of the DM3000 microscope allows users to switch between 2 preferred objectives at a touch of a single button, including the automated selection of the appropriate condenser head and proper adjustment of the light intensity. With fully manual microscopes, these 3 tasks require both hands and are performed many times per day.
Intelligent automation of the microscope can be a significant advantage for daily pathology work, which can strain users’ hands, arms, and shoulders, as it eliminates repetitive tasks and leads to increased efficiency.
For adaptability to individual user preferences, there are 2 freely programmable buttons behind each focus knob of the DM3000 microscope. With these buttons, any two of the six objectives can be easily assigned so that the user can toggle back and forth quickly between the two chosen objectives. These buttons enable users to continue working even while looking continuously through the eyepieces, because there is no need to look at the controls when operating the microscope.
Pathology users spend long hours every day doing microscopic analysis of patient specimens to make critical diagnoses, so choosing the correct microscope is an important decision. High image quality ensures that all diagnostically significant features can be visualized, facilitating confident reporting. Intelligent automation of repetitive microscope functions helps to increase efficiency. Additionally, an ergonomic setup of the microscope, which can be customized for the user’s body size, promotes comfortable posture which minimizes strain and injury.
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- C. Müller, How to Turn Microscope Workplaces Ergonomic: "The microscope needs to adapt to the user, not vice versa", Science Lab (2017) Leica Microsystems