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Open Access Research article

Current usage and future trends in gross digital photography in Canada

Christopher L Horn12, Lawrence DeKoning12, Paul Klonowski12 and Christopher Naugler12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Calgary, 2500 University Dr NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada

2 Calgary Laboratory Services, 9, 3535 Research Rd NW, Calgary, Alberta T2L 2K8, Canada

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:11  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-11

Published: 14 January 2014



The purpose of this study was to assess the current usage, utilization and future direction of digital photography of gross surgical specimens in pathology laboratories across Canada.


An online survey consisting of 23 multiple choice and free-text questions regarding gross digital photography was sent out to via email to laboratory staff across Canada involved in gross dissection of surgical specimens.


Sixty surveys were returned with representation from most of the provinces. Results showed that gross digital photography is utilized at most institutions (90.0%) and the primary users of the technology are Pathologists (88.0%), Pathologists’ Assistants (54.0%) and Pathology residents (50.0%). Most respondents felt that there is a definite need for routine digital imaging of gross surgical specimens in their practice (80.0%). The top two applications for gross digital photography are for documentation of interesting/ complex cases (98.0%) and for teaching purposes (84.0%). The main limitations identified by the survey group are storage space (42.5%) and security issues (40.0%). Respondents indicated that future applications of gross digital photography mostly include teaching (96.6%), presentation at tumour boards/ clinical rounds (89.8%), medico-legal documentation (72.9%) and usage for consultation purposes (69.5%).


The results of this survey indicate that pathology staff across Canada currently utilizes gross digital images for regular documentation and educational reasons. They also show that the technology will be needed for future applications in teaching, consultation and medico-legal purposes.