Hematopathology Case Study: An 85 Year Old Man with Pancytopenia

Case History

An 85 year old man presented with pancytopenia and weakness. His labs include WBC of 3.2, HgB of 9.9 and platelets of 137.

Bone Marrow Biopsy

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Bone Marrow Aspirate, 10x
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Bone Marrow Aspirate, 40x
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Core Biopsy, 10x
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Core Biopsy, 40x

Flow Cytometry

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Diagnosis

The bone marrow aspirate shows multiple cellular spicules with a prominent population of lymphoid cells with oval to reniform nuclei, dispersed chromatin and abundant pale cytoplasm. Scattered plasma cells are also present.

The core biopsy shows an infiltrating population of atypical lymphocytes with moderate amounts of pale eosinophilic cytoplasm and mature chromatin that stain positive for CD20. Frequent mononuclear cells consistent with plasma cells are also seen scattered throughout the bone marrow and stain positive for CD138.

Flow cytometry revealed that 80% of the lymphoid gate represented a kappa light chain restricted population that co-expressed B-cell markers CD19, CD20 and CD22 along with classic hairy cell leukemia specific markers CD11c, CD25 and CD103. A second population of kappa restricted cells fell in the plasma cell gate. The cells co-expressed CD138, CD56 and were largely negative for CD19 and CD20.

Overall, there is a hypercellular bone marrow with a prominent mononuclear lymphoid infiltrate consistent with hairy cell leukemia and a concurrent population of plasma cells consistent with plasma cell neoplasm.

Discussion

Hairy cell leukemia is a rare lymphoid neoplasm that accounts for only 2% of lymphoid leukemias. Patients tend to be in their 50s-60s with a 4:1 male predominance. The tumor is generally found in the bone marrow and spleen with rare circulating cells in the peripheral blood. Patients are generally cytopenic at presentation and symptoms include weakness and fatigue. Splenomegaly is common and hepatomegaly can also be seen.. 1

Hairy cell leukemia involves the clonal expansion of B-cells with a unique immunophenotypic profile. They are bright for CD19, CD20, CD22 and CD200, negative or dim for CD5, CD23 and CD10 and positive for CD11c, CD103, CD123 and CD25. Hairy cell leukemia must be distinguished from two provisional entities, hairy cell leukemia-variant and splenic diffuse red pulp lymphoma. These two entities do not have the classic morphology or staining profile of hairy cell leukemia.2

BRAF V600E mutations are detected in more than 80% of cases of classic hairy cell leukemia. The mutation is considered to be a driver mutation, but additional mutations are usually present that lead to disease progression. Hairy cell leukemia-variant is usually negative for BRAF mutations and has a more aggressive clinical course.3

Patients with hairy cell leukemia are given purine analogues as first line treatment and generally do well. However, patients who do not respond or who undergo relapse have few options. Increasingly, BRAF V600E inhibitors are being used for patients with hairy cell leukemia. Multiple studies have now confirmed the efficacy of vemurafenib and dabrafenib, however patients can be quick to relapse once off the drugs. Combination approaches should be considered for the most effective treatment. 4

References

  1. Swerdlow SH, Campo E, Harris NL, et al. WHO Classification of Tumours of Haematopoetic and Lymphoid Tissues (Revised 4th edition). IARC: Lyon 2017.
  2. Troussard X, Cornet E. Hairy cell leukemia 2018: Update on diagnosis, risk‐stratification, and treatment. American Journal of Hematology. 2017;92(12):1382-1390. doi:10.1002/ajh.24936.
  3. Maitre E, Bertrand P, Maingonnat C, et al. New generation sequencing of targeted genes in the classical and the variant form of hairy cell leukemia highlights mutations in epigenetic regulation genes. Oncotarget. 2018;9(48):28866-28876. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.25601.
  4. Roider T, Falini B, Dietrich S. Recent advances in understanding and managing hairy cell leukemia. F1000Research. 2018;7:F1000 Faculty Rev-509. doi:10.12688/f1000research.13265.1.

 

Marcus, Chelsea_099-Edit

Chelsea Marcus, MD is a third year resident in anatomic and clinical pathology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA and will be starting her fellowship in Hematopathology at BIDMC in July. She has a particular interest in High-grade B-Cell lymphomas and the genetic alterations of these lymphomas.

Leading in a VUCA World

Leading people can be a challenging task regardless of the industry or size of an organization. Adding volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environment into the mix and the leadership challenge increases. Today’s organizations are increasingly complex, ambiguous, uncertain, and volatile because change is accelerating and intensifying. How can leaders equip themselves to manage a VUCA workplace? The first step is understanding what each terms means.

Volatile Situations describe circumstances that change constantly and unexpectedly, and a certain level of instability of a task or challenge is present. However, the best leadership approach is to use available information, be proactive, and have multiple plans and strategies in place. An example of a volatile circumstance is a natural disaster. In such a circumstance not only is the natural disaster a volatile situation, but also the constantly changing nature of the aftermath; which emergency agencies are coming and when, where are people stuck, etc. There are a lot of changes occurring in a volatile situation.   Being proactive and prepared in volatile circumstances can be expensive, but that preparation is necessary to handle these situations.

Uncertain Situations are situations known for a lack of information, so on some level they are the opposite of volatile situations. In uncertain circumstances there is no reliable information about cause and effect and it is not known if change will happen, can happen, or have a positive effect if it does happen. The best approach in these circumstances is to find more information, more data, and more analytics. Once leaders have access to more data, they need to make sure the data is analyzed and implemented into new strategies and change processes. An example of an uncertain situation is when a competitor suddenly emerges that takes direct aim at your company by undercutting prices. In this case, it is important to collect as much data and information as possible to respond to the situation appropriately through new strategies.

Complex Situations have several interconnected and interdependent aspects which have a clear relationship. In these situations, there is partial information available but because everything is interlinked, it is a challenge to process the information in a way that reliably predicts the future. The approach is to reduce the number of linkages, or at least to make them clearer, so the complexity of the situation or task is easily understood and managed. An example of a complex situation is when implementing a process change affects all departments in an organization. In such a circumstance, everything is interconnected and it can be hard to predict how this change will impact everyone and to prepare for it. The key here is to make the change as simple as possible and to assess the impact it makes on every aspect of the organization before implementing the change.

Ambiguous Situations are situations which have relationships that are completely unknown and ambiguous; there appears to be no rhyme or reason. The phrase that comes to mind in these situations is “you don’t know what you don’t know.” In such ambiguity, leaders need to learn from mistakes, hypotheses, and test rounds so it is important to experiment in order to gain information. An example of an ambiguous situation is when you are launching a new product or starting a new business. There are a lot of unknowns in these circumstances so making hypotheses and learning from mistakes is essential for leaders’ success.

In order to lead in a VUCA world, leaders need to analyze these four situation types to confirm which one they are currently leading in. Next is to find the right approach in order to lead people, a department, or an organization through the volatile, uncertain, complex, or ambiguous situation. Knowing is half the answer, so the next time you find yourself in a VUCA situation, start by not only analyzing the situation and possible solutions, but also by analyzing your own reaction to each of the four situations. Being able to understand and control your own reaction will increase your leadership skills in all VUCA and non-VUCA worlds.

 

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.

Managing Up For Safety

Several employee injuries over a six-month period did nothing to get the attention of the laboratory leadership. The Occupational Health nurse was nearing retirement, and she didn’t pay attention to the fact that these injuries came from the same area- the autopsy suite- and that many had a common cause. The pathologist knew that the employees were getting hurt because of bad conditions in the morgue area. The autopsy table was old and had rusted sharp edges that frequently caused cuts on the hands of those handling it. The body storage refrigerator was small, and staff members from the security department and nursing suffered back injuries from the awkward positions needed to load and unload bodies on the shelves. However, the pathologist’s complaints to the lab manager were unheeded, mainly because he complained about something different every day.

The new lab safety officer noted the lab injury reports and very quickly noticed a pattern. She interviewed the affected staff and took a look around the autopsy suite. She used her camera and took pictures of the old rusty table and the high shelves in the tiny body storage refrigerator. She tallied the cost to the facility of the accumulated injuries and placed the information in a presentation that included the photographs. She made an appointment with the hospital administrator and gave her brief presentation. Before the week was out, the lab had approved funding for updated autopsy furniture and a mechanical lift for moving bodies.

In life, each person has a specific “sphere of influence,” those things you are able to touch and on which you have an effect. It is typically a waste of time to expend energy on those things you cannot change- like a traffic jam, for instance. Stewing about that truly is a waste and accomplishes little. If your role deals with lab safety, then you do have influence on every safety issue in the department, even though it may not always seem that way.

As a lab safety professional, it can be frustrating to see safety issues go unnoticed or unattended, especially after they have been reported. The apparent roadblocks to solutions may be a lack of funds, busy or disinterested leadership, and even an overall poor culture of safety. There are steps you can take, however, which can help you move around the roadblocks and bring those unattended safety issues toward a solution.

Finances is a common hindrance to making changes in the laboratory such as remodeling a space or even getting new or improved safety equipment. Safety is always value-added, but it is important to be able to prove it to those holding the financial reins. First, tally the cost of any injuries that may have occurred due to the safety issue. That total should include any medical treatment, time off of work, the cost of replacement employees or overtime incurred, and time to make any temporary fixes and to communicate to staff. If there is a possibility of penalties or fines should the issue be noted by an outside regulatory agency, those should be considered as well. Many times, the total of the costs for the safety issue are greater than the cost of the fix. In the healthcare setting where finances are getting more attention each year, this can be a powerful tool to get things done.

If lab leadership is uninterested or too busy to help you with safety issues, there are some long-term solutions. First, make sure you act as the safety role model and build trust with peers and leadership. If your discussions with them are reasonable, and if your focus is on sensible, realistic solutions, you will have a better response than if you get angry or try to control everything. That relationship-building can be critical to your ability to influence changes when needed. If the overall safety culture in the lab is poor, you can still have a positive effect on it even without the full support of leadership. That leadership support always helps, but making positive changes can occur without it, and that also comes through being a role model and working well with the lab staff.

A successful lab safety professional develops and increases their sphere of influence over time, but it can be an uphill battle depending on the location and the other people involved. Knowing what the important issues are and when to tackle them is key, and learning that while navigating through a particular culture and organizational structure can take time. Have patience, and you will eventually be able to leverage your safety knowledge to be able to manage upward in order to create a safer laboratory.

 

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Dan Scungio, MT(ASCP), SLS, CQA (ASQ) has over 25 years experience as a certified medical technologist. Today he is the Laboratory Safety Officer for Sentara Healthcare, a system of seven hospitals and over 20 laboratories and draw sites in the Tidewater area of Virginia. He is also known as Dan the Lab Safety Man, a lab safety consultant, educator, and trainer.

Hematopathology Case Study: A 67 Year Old Female with a Sore Throat

History 

A 67 year old female presents with a two-month history of sore throat. She endorses dysphagia and left-sided otalgia but denies voice changes, shortness of breath, hemoptysis, weight loss, fever or night sweats. She has smoked 1 pack/day for 41 years and occasionally drinks alcohol. Her past medical history is notable for systemic lupus erythematosus for which she takes Plaquenil.

Physical examination slightly elevated systolic blood pressure. She is afebrile. Pertinent neck exam findings include mild tonsillar asymmetry (left slightly larger than right), and a firm mass at left base of tongue, and a 3 cm lymph node in the neck (left level III). A biopsy sample was taken from the tongue mass. 

Biopsy

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H&E stained sections reveal sheets of large lymphocytes. The lymphoid cells are medium to large in size with irregular nuclear contours and prominent nuclei. Areas of necrosis are prominent. No specific areas of epithelial ulceration are noted. Immunophenotypic characterization of the larger cells reveals positivity for CD20, CD30, CD79a, PAX5, MUM1, Epstein Barr virus encoded RNA (EBER) and a variable Ki-67 proliferation index, which is up to 60-70% in the larger cells, but around 20-30% overall. Only rare cells are positive for BCL-2 and BCL-6. The lymphoma cells are negative for keratin AE1/AE3, CD10, CD4, CD8, CD21, CD23, CD7, CD5, Cyclin D1, CD68, CD56, and CD43. The background T cells express CD5 and CD7 and are a mixture of CD4 and CD8 with CD4 predominance.

We considered the diagnosis of EBV-positive mucocutaneous ulcer (a more indolent entity); however, the lack of history of an ulcer/ulceration and the presence of a mass-lesion (with additional adenopathy) does not support this diagnosis.

The findings are most consistent with EBV-positive DLBCL, NOS (WHO 2017), previously known as EBV positive DLBCL of the elderly (WHO 2008). 

Discussion 

Epstein Barr Virus, a member of the Herpesviridae family is mostly known for causing Infectious Mononucleosis. However, the ubiquitous virus which is present in about 90% of adults but often asymptomatic1, has a predilection for epithelial cells including B-cells.2 Incorporation of the viral genome and viral takeover of the cells proliferative machinery underlies the pathogenesis of any EBV-related disease/malignancy. It has been associated with a gastric carcinoma, fulminant hepatitis, undifferentiated nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and B cell, T cell and NK cell lymphomas3, including EBV+ diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, not otherwise specified (DLBCL-NOS).

EBV-positive diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, not otherwise specified (EBV+ DLBCL-NOS) was formerly known as EBV-positive diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) of the elderly. The WHO classification substituted “not otherwise specified” in place of “for the elderly” to reflect two things: 1) EBV is associated with other specific neoplastic Large B-Cell diseases such as lymphomatoid granulomatosis, and 2) EBV+DLBCL can affect younger individuals as well as the elderly. 2

EBV+DLBCL-NOS patients may occur in nodal or extranodal sites, with up to 40% presenting with extranodal sites at least in the early stages. Patients may be asymptomatic with or without B symptoms but usually, patients present with rapidly enlarging tumors at single or multinodal sites, as well as at extranodal sites. 4

The patient’s presentation with sore throat and the finding of neck mass with EBV-positive large B-cells associated with ulcer-like necrosis raises a differential diagnosis that ranges from reactive to malignant. Table 1 shows a comparison between three differential diagnoses: EBV+DLBCL-NOS; EBV-positive mucocutaneous ulcer; and infectious mononucleosis.

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Table 1. Comparison of 3 EBV-positive differentials in the head and neck

Unfortunately, there is currently no uniformly agreed standard of treatment for EBV+DLBCL which has a worse prognosis than EBV negative DLBCL.2 The standard treatment for DLBCL (rituximab, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone- R-CHOP) is used but it responds poorly to treatment, with a median survival of 2 years.

Therefore, early detection by clinical suspicion and testing all DLBCL patients for EBV is very important.2 

 References

  1. Tsuchiya S. Diagnosis of Epstein–Barr virus-associated diseases. Critical Reviews in Oncology and Hematology. 2002;44(3):227-238. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1040842802001142. doi: 10.1016/S1040-8428(02)00114-2.
  2. Murthy SL, Hitchcock MA, Endicott-Yazdani T, Watson JT, Krause JR. Epstein-barr virus–positive diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Proceedings (Baylor University.Medical Center). 2017;30(4):443-444. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5595389/.
  3. Okano, Motohiko, MD, PhD|Gross, Thomas G., MD, PhD. Acute or chronic life-threatening diseases associated with epstein-barr virus infection. American Journal of the Medical Sciences, The. 2012;343(6):483-489. https://www.clinicalkey.es/playcontent/1-s2.0-S0002962915309435. doi: 10.1097/MAJ.0b013e318236e02d.
  4. Swerdlow S, Campo E, Harris NL, Jaffe ES, Pileri SA, Stein H, Thiele J, Arber D, Hasserjian R, Le Beau M. WHO classification of tumours of haematopoietic and lymphoid tissues. 2017.
  5. Dunmire SK, Hogquist KA, Balfour HH. Infectious Mononucleosis. Current topics in microbiology and immunology. 2015;390:211-240. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-22822-8_9.

 

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-Adesola Akinyemi, M.D., MPH, recently earned his MPH-Health Policy and Management from New York Medical College. He plans on pursuing residency training in pathology. His interests include cytopathology, neuropathology, and health outcomes improvement through systems thinking and design.

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-Kamran M. Mirza, MD PhD is an Assistant Professor of Pathology and Medical Director of Molecular Pathology at Loyola University Medical Center. He was a top 5 honoree in ASCP’s Forty Under 40 2017. Follow Dr. Mirza on twitter @kmirza.

Hematopathology Case Study: Two Cases with Surprising Hematopoetic Elements

Case 1 History

Sixty-one year old man with new diagnosis of Bud-Chiari syndrome and extensive peripheral, splenic and hepatic venous thrombosis with increasing fatigue, abdominal discomfort and abnormal liver function tests. A liver biopsy was performed and a hypercoagulability work-up, including JAK2 mutation analysis was initiated.

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Liver core biopsy 2X
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Liver core biopsy 10X

Diagnosis

The liver biopsy showed extensive hemorrhage, hepatocellular necrosis and collapse with mild portal and lobular mixed inflammation. Occasional megakaryocytes and nucleated red blood cell precursors were noted. The case was sent to hematopathology for further review.

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Liver core biopsy 40X
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Liver core biopsy 40X
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JAK2 Mutations Analysis

Hematopathology Diagnosis

Sections show liver parenchyma with changes of the patient’s known history of venous outflow obstruction, as well as extramedullary hematopoiesis, including scattered megakaryocytes (arrows) and erythroid precursors (circle). In the setting of a positive JAK2 V617F mutation, this constellation of findings is consistent with a myeloproliferative neoplasm.

Case 2 History

Fifty-nine year old man with a history of hypertension and alcohol abuse with posterior mediastinal lymphadenopathy. Recent bone marrow biopsy showed mildly hypercellular bone marrow with megakaryocytic and myeloid hyperplasia, and increased stromal reticulin with concern for primary myelofibrosis. A lymph node biopsy was performed.

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Lymph node biopsy 10X
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Lymph node biopsy 40X
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Myeloperoxidase
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CD71
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CD61
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CD34
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CD3
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CD20

Diagnosis

The lymph node biopsy shows fragments composed of adipocytes and maturing trilineage hematopoiesis. Multiple small to medium sized lymphoid aggregates are also seen, composed of small and mature appearing lymphocytes. The lymphocytes are a mixture of CD3 positive T cells and CD20 positive B cells with focal B cell predominance. Myeloperoxidase highlights myeloid precursors, which comprise 70-80% of the cellularity. CD71 highlights erythroid precursors, which comprise 20-30% of the cellularity. CD61 highlights megakaryocytes. CD34 highlights vessels and only rare CD34-positive cells are seen. Taken together, the findings are consistent with extramedullary hematopoiesis.

Discussion

Extramedullary hematopoiesis (EMH) is defined as hematopoiesis that occurs outside of the bone marrow. It can occur in both normal and pathologic states and has been seen in several hematologic disorders including chronic myeloproliferative neoplasms. Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) are a group of clonal hematopoetic stem cell disorders that include polycythemia vera (PV), essential thrombocythemia (ET) and primary myelofibrosis (PMF).1 JAK2V617F mutation is the most frequent mutation associated with MPNs, found in roughly 96% of patients with PV and 65% of patients with ET and PMF. This mutation leads to constitutive activation of the JAK/STAT pathway and is a driver of myeloproliferation.2  The patient in case 1 was found to have a JAK2 mutation during the work-up for hypercoagulability. This suggests that he may have an underlying MPN, however JAK2 mutations have been found in patients with venous thrombosis, but without overt evidence of MPNs.3 The patient in case 2 had a bone marrow biopsy with features concerning for primary myelofibrosis. In PMF, there is generally a proliferation of myeloid cells in addition to marrow fibrosis. Increasing fibrosis can eventually result in pancytopenia as the fibrosis takes over the marrow space in addition to altering the bone marrow environment so that it is unable to support normal hematopoiesis. Ultimately, this can lead to extramedullary hematopoesis. EMH most commonly occurs in the spleen and liver, but has been described in many other sites including the mediastinum and lymph nodes. In addition to being a driver of proliferation, it is thought that JAK2 mutations make hematopoetic stem and progenitor cells more sensitive to growth factors and can cause the cells to mobilize to the liver and spleen.4  Patients with EMH can have symptoms related to the site of involvement. Depending on the extent of involvement and location, EMH may require treatment with low dose radiation. While EMH is a rare finding, it should prompt an investigation for an underlying MPN.

References

  1. Imai K, Aoi T, Kitai H,et al. A case of perirenal extramedullary hematopoiesis in a patient with primary myelofibrosis. CEN Case Reports. 2017;6(2):194-199. doi:10.1007/s13730-017-0274-1.
  2. Kim CH. Homeostatic and pathogenic extramedullary hematopoiesis. Journal of blood medicine. 2010;1:13-19.3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17263783.
  3. De Stefano, V, Fiorini, A, Rossi, E, et al. Incidence of JAK2 V617F mutation among patients with splanchnic or cerebral venous thrombosis and without overt chronic myeloproliferative disorders. Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis. 2007;5(4):708-14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17263783.
  4. Passamonti F, Maffioli M, Caramazza D, et al. Myeloproliferative neoplasms: From JAK2 mutations discovery to JAK2 inhibitor therapies. Oncotarget. 2011;2(6):485-490.

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Chelsea Marcus, MD is a third year resident in anatomic and clinical pathology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA and will be starting her fellowship in Hematopathology at BIDMC in July. She has a particular interest in High-grade B-Cell lymphomas and the genetic alterations of these lymphomas.

Cut it Out … No, Really, I Need Margins

Hello everyone! Back again with another post about that interesting space between my experiences working in laboratory medicine as an MLS and my current path through medical school toward a career in pathology. Last month, I discussed how the new 5th generation cardiac enzyme assays are evolving and reaffirming the relationships between lab data and clinical decision making. This month, as I adjust to a very different circadian rhythm, I’d like to talk about some topics in my surgery rotation as they relate to surgical pathology and the lab.

Just to summarize, besides epidemiological research and public health initiatives I’ve written about here on this blog, I had several years of lab work before medical school. In my experience, I have seen the gamut of required steps for pathology specimens peri/post-operatively. Everything from placenta, bone, blood, marrow, skin, brain, lung, GI, to any other organ system’s tissue is processed, blocked, stained and examined on glass by pathologists who write reports for their clinical colleagues.  Often, we in the lab receive phone calls from providers inquiring about turn-around times and results as they  follow-up on their patients and cases. In Chicago, I was able to see and train in a great trauma center at Northwestern, community hospitals like Swedish Covenant and Weiss Memorial, and an academic hospital centers like Rush and UIC. What I learned there is just how much really depends on those pathology reports. Cytology, diagnostic immunohistochemistry, morphology, margins, and gross analysis all contribute to a final diagnosis. After an extended observership at UAB Medical Center, I was fortunate to see first-hand the critical process involved in signing out dermatology consults, examining gross pathology, and even frozen neuropathology specimens. Sitting with attendings in the OR and frozen rooms deciding between glioblastoma multiforme, lymphoma, or something benign (read: defer to permanent slide diagnosis later) was fascinating. Meanwhile, I’m now a month into formal surgical rotations at Bronx-Care Hospital in NY and I get to see the other side of the pathology report.

The Relationships Between Surgeons and Pathologists are Critical

Many surgical interventions and procedures require resection of known or suspected pathologic tissue. Whether it’s malignancy, benign growth, obstruction, adhesion, or otherwise mechanically compromising tissue, many patients require a surgeon to remove the entity in question. And, while the difficulty of these excisions and resections may vary depending on location, cases rely heavily on the pathologist-surgeon collaboration. Virtually all neoplasms are diagnosed through anatomic pathology assessment under a microscope. Fine needle aspirates, pap smears, bone marrow biopsies, and countless other tissues must go through pathology before being finalized. This interdisciplinary collaboration between the surgical team and the pathology team is, of course, by nature acutely critical. In proper circumstances, open cases in the operating room are consulted to a pathologist STAT. The effective communication between the pathologist and surgeon awaiting the intraoperative consultation is key to effectively treating their shared patient. Sometimes operating rooms will have live microscopic image-casting, sometimes there is an intercom system, sometimes its solely based on electronic forms in the EHR, and sometimes pathologists need to go into the surgical field to examine the resection intraoperatively in person. However it happens, this is a very important relationship that patients might not be aware of.

The Point of View Between Surgical Pathology and Clinical Surgeons Are Different

So this sounds like a perfect match, right? Surgeons and pathologists living in harmony? Unfortunately, harmony isn’t part of regular onboarding at many institutions so, as with any staff, there are different scopes and sometimes this can be a challenge. Getting a frozen notification as a pathologist is a serious task. They are emergent and must be addressed immediately and diagnoses are made with serious gravity, often consulting with other pathologists. This is also, however, a singular teaching moment as every frozen section is different and pathologists use these learning opportunities to teach their residents and medical students. In the interests of accurate diagnoses, educational value, and appropriate response to the OR, pathologists take measures to ensure success. For example, frozen specimens will be received, a history and presentation of the patient is discussed, the specimen is partitioned for frozen section (STAT), permanent section, and further studies (routine). So, for the pathologist it’s all about accuracy, reliability, and what they can confidently report. The surgeon has a different point of view: they are operating with a specific physical goal in mind by either resecting a tumor, or isolating good margins from a known malignancy, or ensuring the tissue being removed is correct/adequate for its therapeutic purpose. Fun fact: surgical pathology was a field originally developed by surgeons! There are things a pathologist only knows, and there are things a surgeon only knows—but when working together, the overlap of medical knowledge increases the coverage of care for their shared patients’ outcomes.

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Image 1. A pathologist processes a frozen specimen on a cryostat machine. A summary of frozen sections from JAMA, 2005;294(24):3200. doi:10.1001/jama.294.24.3200

The Cold Truth About Frozen Sections

Frozen specimens aren’t perfect. In these specimens, tissue gets stiffened by freezing instead of routine paraffin embedding, and because of that a frozen section could be distorted by folds, tears, and other artifacts that might appear because of mechanical manipulation during processing. Frozen samples also leave artifacts where water would crystallize and freeze, but one of the caveats regarding artifacts in frozen sections is that FAT DOES NOT FREEZE. Instead, specimens that have large fat content (i.e. brain tissue) have to be examined carefully to not confuse findings with inflammation or other pathologic processes. Ultimately, it takes numerous cases to properly hone the skills required to confidently diagnose from frozen section. While they might not be perfect, it is a critical tool used between the surgical and pathology teams. Challenges in this handoff process relate to proper use of this surgical tool. For instance, if a frozen is called for and the surgery is closed by the time a pathology report is filed, then (assuming there were no serious delays) this may have been an inappropriate specimen decision. Furthermore, specimens must be discussed prior to receipt for appropriateness and clinical relevance. Fatty lipomas aren’t going to go to frozen section, they shouldn’t be ordered. A thyroid lobectomy? That’s a better utilization of resources and tools.

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Image 2. A demonstration of water-related crystal formation causing distortion and artifact (LEFT) on frozen section of muscle tissue, compared to normal (RIGHT). From Northwestern, source: http://www.feinberg.northwestern.edu/research/docs/cores/mhpl/tissuefreezing.pdf

Ultimately, with proper training and experience a pathologist can effectively use the frozen section as a useful clinical tool to improve patient outcomes. Surgeons operating in the best interests of their patients, should strive to create a functional and successful communication between both services. My experiences in NY with surgeons of various kinds reveals a common truth among them: pathology is a critical player in surgical interventions, and without margins, diagnostic stains, and other work-ups, those interventions would be much more difficult and risky.

Thanks again! See you next time!

Bonus: for more content specifically detailing some of the cellular morphologies and cytology I discussed above, please check out I Heart Pathology, a compendium website my friend and colleague at UAB, Dr. Tiffany Graham, manages. It’s meant for other pathology residents to review and refresh on material and it’s updated as often as possible. Check out the link here: https://www.iheartpathology.net/

 

 

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–Constantine E. Kanakis MSc, MLS (ASCP)CM graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a BS in Molecular Biology and Bioethics and then Rush University with an MS in Medical Laboratory Science. He is currently a medical student actively involved in public health and laboratory medicine, conducting clinicals at Bronx-Care Hospital Center in New York City.

History of Generations: Traditionalists

Traditionalists make up the smallest percentage involved in the current workforce, but they are the organizational historians as they know and remember the organization’s past and founding goals. Traditionalists are typically born between 1927 and 1945 and grew up during the Great Depression, which was from 1933 to 1938. After that, the second World War started and the U.S.A got involved after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

These years had a significant effect on this generation. Traditionalists are known to work collaboratively, know how to do more with less, and are task-oriented. They typically have a strong sense of what is right and wrong, which was fueled by the historical events in their childhood and early adulthood. They have a strong sense of patriotism and respect for authority figures.

This generation is also one of the first major innovators; they created space travel, vaccination programs, and the foundation for modern-day technological innovations. They were the driving force of the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s and were also the ones that started moving to suburbs. Currently, the are serving on many Board of Directors, as Presidents of organizations or as executive leaders. They have generally moved up in the hierarchy of organizations that they have spent years working for. They are loyal employees who require little feedback from their managers.

Because this is the era of pre-feminism women, the majority of women raised children and only had a job before marriage as teachers, nurses, or secretaries. This generation is self-disciplined, cautious, and self-sacrificing.

 

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.


 

This generation was born before 1945 and is the oldest generation in the American culture. However, not all of those born before 1945 are alike.  They either fought in WWII or were children through those war years.  The Traditionalist generation are really the first strong innovators and if they are still working they act as the historians of the organization because they have been there for a long time. They often serve on Board of Directors and are Presidents because of their organizational knowledge and expertise. They are typically very disciplined, consistent in their behavior and opinions, and are known for their loyalty.

The majority of Traditionalists are retirees and are the largest lobbyist group, which is the AARP.  If your parents or grandparents were of the Traditionalist Generation, you might have experienced a “waste not, want not” attitude with strong family values, conformity, and team players.

The Traditionalists are often referred to as the “Silent Generation.” This term came from the fact that during this era, the children were often expected to be seen and not heard.

As I pondered this generational topic, I found myself searching for an example of an “Active Working Traditionalist” that I could talk about because they might not have yet retired!  To my surprise I found myself thinking about my Uncle Tom.  This man has taken care of me and his family of five children with my Aunt Pat my whole life. He is a strong family man and then realized he is still working! Uncle Tom (he prefers to remain nameless) turned 83 year’s old this past April 16th.  He is still the principle owner of his own CPA firm and worked those long and hard CPA hours during this 2018 tax season.  As I mentioned early in this blog, all Traditionalists are not alike, and Uncle Tom never expected children to be “silent.”  He valued their opinions, and my Aunt Pat was both a stay home mom and a partner in their CPA firm.

Uncle Tom values the old-time morals of family first, safety, conservatism, patience and financial security.  I encourage you to look around for your Traditionalist at home, or maybe even in the workplace.  Let’s appreciate our Traditionalists while we still have the opportunity to learn from them!

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-Catherine Stakenas, MA, is the Senior Director of Organizational Leadership and Development and Performance Management at ASCP. She is certified in the use and interpretation of 28 self-assessment instruments and has designed and taught masters and doctoral level students.