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New pathology service expands frontiers of lab medicine

TORONTO – A new pathology laboratory, located at the University Health Network, aims to be the first hospital lab in Canada to use the Internet to deliver world-leading pathology services in real-time to remote areas of Ontario.

Dynamic telepathology refers to the delivery of pathology services at a distance, using real time digital images obtained with a robotic microscope that’s controlled by a pathologist over the Internet.

The technology links surgeons with pathologists during intraoperative biopsies. While a patient is undergoing surgery in one hospital, a pathologist at another hospital waits to receive and examine computer images of the tissue sample. The results of these biopsies, which can be communicated by the pathologist to the surgeon within minutes, play a central role in determining how a given operation will proceed.

The technology is currently linking two UHN hospitals, Toronto General and Toronto Western. Plans are under way to expand the service beyond Toronto to other areas of the province, beginning in the northeast where Toronto Medical Laboratories, which manages UHN’s laboratories, already provides a range of services to 10 community hospitals.

Telepathology is expanding the frontiers of laboratory medicine by allowing surgeons working in hospitals without an on-site pathologist to perform operations that otherwise might not be possible, said UHN pathologist Dr. Andrew Evans. “The great benefit to patients is that they don’t have to travel to other centres for cancer-related surgery and they have faster access to surgical care.”

UHN’s new Pathology Department also houses a level 3 containment autopsy laboratory – the first of its kind in Canada – which provides protection against the spread of infection during pathological investigations of highly infectious diseases, such as SARS.

“This world-class facility makes it possible for pathologists to handle infectious cases with greater comfort and, when needed, provide answers rapidly and with confidence,” said Dr. Jagdish Butany, Director of Autopsy, UHN. “Infections will be kept contained within the autopsy laboratory, preventing further spread and ensuring patient and public safety.”

The new Pathology Department will allow expansion of the high-quality diagnostic services UHN hospitals have access to, said Dr. Sylvia Asa (pictured above), Pathologist-in-Chief, UHN and Medical Director, Toronto Medical Laboratories. “We have every modern diagnostic modality available in our hospitals. The innovations that we are highlighting today will allow us to transform our healthcare system and provide access for patients not just in Toronto, but across Ontario.”

University Health Network (UHN) is a major landmark in Canada’s healthcare system, and a teaching partner of the University of Toronto. Comprising three hospitals, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital, the UHN brings together the innovation, talent and resources needed to achieve global impact on the healthcare scene and provide exemplary patient care. For more information, visit

Toronto Medical Laboratories (TML) is a partnership of University Health Network and MDS Diagnostics Inc. TML manages laboratory services for the three UHN hospitals and 18 other hospitals in Ontario. TML also has established laboratory services partnerships with other teaching hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area, including the Hospital for Sick Children, Mount Sinai Hospital, St. Michael’s Hospital, and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.