When a tissue sample arrives in the lab it is first examined without a microscope. The results of this examination are included in the gross description section of the pathology report.
All pathology reports include a gross description. The gross description is an important part of the diagnostic process. It will include information such as the type of tissue received, the size of the tissue (usually in three dimensions), and the presence of any markers (usually sutures or ink) left by the surgeon to help orient the tissue.
The most important information in the gross description will involve the identification of any abnormal tissue such as a tumour. The description of any abnormal areas will also include the size, colour, shape, and relationship to the surrounding normal tissue. The distance from the abnormal tissue to the cut edge of the tissue will also be measured. This area is called the margin.
During the gross examination, pieces of the tissue will be selected and submitted for microscopic examination. The gross description will describe any areas of tissue sampled and the relationships between the sampled tissue. All sampled tissues are placed in labelled blocks or cassettes which help your pathologist identify them later. Each block becomes a slide which is then examined under the microscope by the pathologist.
In most hospitals, the gross description is prepared by a pathologist’s assistant, a specially trained laboratory professional who conveys their observations to your pathologist. Specifically, the gross description tells your pathologist how the tissue looked before it was processed for microscopic examination. The gross description may also be performed by anatomical pathology residents or fellows.