Slide preparation techniques and tips

Always remember to:
  • Label each slide with the patient name, date, source, and preparation technique.
  • Save the specimen and keep a digital copy of all stained/submitted slides for 2 weeks. 
  • Keep 1–2 unstained slides to use if the pathologist recommends additional testing.

Read more about how to prepare slides

Fine needle aspiration and nonaspiration

  • ​​​​​​Use for skin/subcutaneous masses, lymph nodes, and internal organs.
  • Select the technique best suited for the tissue to avoid cell lysis or excessive blood.
  • Use 22-gauge needles, which work well for most tissue types.

Blood films

  • Use fresh, well-mixed anticoagulated blood to avoid specimen deterioration.
  • Maintain an approximate 30° angle between the spreader and specimen slide throughout.
  • Spread the specimen in one smooth, steady motion.

Line smears

  • ​​​​​​Use for body cavity effusions, bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL)/tracheal lavage, and joint fluid.
  • Include a direct smear; use an additional line smear for specimens with low cellularity, or suspected infectious agents. If needed, use a squash prep for flocculent material.
  • Submit a buffy coat and a direct film for specimens with large blood content.

Urine sediment

  • ​​​​​​Use 5 mL of fresh, well-mixed, centrifuged urine (set centrifuge to urine/400 x g).
  • Maintain an approximate 30°–40° angle between the spreader and specimen slide.
  • Spread the specimen halfway down the slide; stop abruptly to create a line.

How to stain slides

Always remember to:
  • Follow the recommended stain times.
  • Check slides to see if additional staining is required.
  • Replace stains as needed to prevent stain precipitate.
Follow these 5 steps to stain slides
​​​​​​Step 1.
Dip in fixative
Graphic depicting IDEXX Digital Cytology slide staining step 1: dip in fixative
Step 2.
Dip in red stain
Graphic depicting IDEXX Digital Cytology slide staining step 2: dip in red stain
​​​​​​Step 3.
Dip in blue stain
Graphic depicting IDEXX Digital Cytology slide staining step 3: dip in blue stain
Step 4.
Dip in water
Graphic depicting IDEXX Digital Cytology slide staining step 4: dip in water
​​​​​Step 5.
Dip in water
Graphic depicting IDEXX Digital Cytology slide staining step 5: dip in water

How to select and submit the best slides for review

To obtain a clinically relevant interpretation of the lesion, scan only slides that are representative of the lesion and are of good quality and cellularity.

To select your best slides:
  • Check for even staining and visible material “blue to purple.”
  • Inspect for intact cells by microscope or by reviewing the scanned image.

How to submit slides



  1. Secure a stained slide into the slide tray.
  2. Gently insert the tray into the instrument.
  3. Scan, review the images and select 1–2 slides that are in focus and adequately represent the sample.

How to submit slides to IDEXX Reference Laboratories

How to submit slides to IDEXX Reference Laboratories v39 or later

Choosing the best slides to submit for pathology review

How to digitally submit cytology slides with software version 39 or later

What to do if another slide is requested

An IDEXX pathologist will ask you to resubmit a slide when the slides initially submitted cannot be interpreted.

This can happen for many reasons, for example:
  • A slide was scanned stain-side down.
  • A slide was not secured properly in the slide tray.
  • The pathologist needs a different perspective.
  • A slide has insufficient intact cellular material.

NOTE: The process for resubmitting a slide is different from the initial submission.

How to resubmit a slide



  1. Use the add-on code in your pathology report.
  2. Add the order to the requisition for the patient.
  3. Scan, review, and submit 1–2 new images.

How to resubmit a digital cytology slide to IDEXX Reference Laboratories

How to resubmit a digital cytology slide to IDEXX Reference Laboratories with software version 39 or later

VetConnect PLUS results shown on desktop, tablet, and phone

Results, reports, reassurance

Within 2 hours, pathology results are integrated directly into your practice management system and in VetConnect PLUS. Just pick up the phone or email the pathologist dedicated to your case from start to finish if you have any questions. 

Use VetConnect PLUS to simplify case management even more:
  • View and share reports and high-resolution image.
  • Review interpretation and comments.
  • Access all IDEXX diagnostic results, alongside pathology, for a comprehensive patient view.

Learn about VetConnect PLUS | How-to videos | Sign in

Frequently asked questions

Use the power switch on the back of the instrument to turn the power off and then on. Make sure that the instrument has been powered on for 20 seconds before restarting the IDEXX Digital Cytology computer. Turn on the computer using the power button in the lower-right corner of the monitor. IDEXX recommends shutting down and restarting the IDEXX Digital Cytology instrument and its computer at least once per week.

No. To provide all customers with results in 2 hours or less, we cannot direct cases to specific pathologists. Doing so would delay the receipt of reports with results and interpretations. What you can do is discuss your case with the pathologist dedicated to working with you from start to finish. You can access that pathologist directly via phone and email.

If you notice changes in image quality or see visible debris or particles when using the software to preview images, the instrument camera lens or sample area may need to be cleaned. Simply call customer support at 1-800-248-2483 and a specialist will walk you through the process. 


Contact us

Need more help? Please call us.

  • For answers about the instrument or workflow, call 1-800-248-2483.
  • For answers about your pathology report, call 1-800-433-9987.