Tangentially sectioned

April 13, 2023

In pathology, tangentially sectioned is used to describe a tissue sample that is difficult to examine under the microscope because it has been cut on an angle. This may prevent your pathologist from providing a complete diagnosis based on the tissue sample available. Tangential sectioning is typically in small tissue samples such as biopsies.

How does this happen?

Before a tissue sample can be examined under the microscope by a pathologist, the tissue first needs to be cut into very thin sections and placed on glass slides. This process is performed by technicians using a machine called a microtome. In a tangential section, the microtome cuts through the tissue at an angle so that different levels of the tissue are combined into the same section. A tangential section can be caused by the way the tissue sample was removed from the body or by the way the sample was placed onto the microtome.

Why is this important?

A tangentially sectioned tissue sample can be difficult to examine under the microscope. If your pathologist is unable to reach a diagnosis because the tissue has been tangentially sectioned, they may ask your doctor to send a new tissue sample for examination.

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