Use of electron microscopy and other special techniques in the investigation of suspected specimen contamination

C. W. Zuppan, D. A. Weeks, G. D. Wenger, O. A. Alvarez, G. W. Mierau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Contamination of a biopsy or surgical specimen with spurious tissue is an uncommon but potentially disastrous event. In this regard, the case of a 5-year-old boy referred for treatment of an abdominal tumor is presented. Sections made from paraffin blocks brought by the family showed both neuroblastoma and a spindle cell sarcoma, initially suggesting the possibility of divergent or mixed differentiation. However, the resemblance of the spindle cell component to well-differentiated leiomyosarcoma rather than rhabdomyosarcoma raised the suspicion that a specimen contamination had occurred. Electron microscopy was instrumental in confirming the smooth muscle nature of the sarcomatous component, leading to a fluorescence in situ hybridization study, which established that this component was incompatible with the patient's gender. This case illustrates that even when the light microscopic differential has been compromised by specimen mishandling, electron microscopy can at times provide useful information regarding specimen identity, as well as assist in sorting out the correct diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-456
Number of pages4
JournalUltrastructural Pathology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997


  • Electron microscopy
  • Fluorescence in situ hybridization
  • Leiomyosarcoma
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Specimen contamination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Structural Biology


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