Telemetric, intraoperative frozen section diagnosis may be a useful tool for rural hospitals lacking an in-house pathology service. As a part of a Health Ministry Project on Telemedicine in Trentino (northern Italy), we developed a static telemicroscopy system (STeMiSy). This system connects the rural hospital of Cles with the main hospital of Trento. The two hospitals are 40 kilometers apart, and the road connecting the two towns runs across the mountains and has a heavy traffic. Before putting STeMiSy into practice, we tested the software and hardware on the LAN of the regional hospital system, by connecting the pathology services of Trento and Rovereto (20 kilometers apart). This test phase lasted three months and has not revealed major problems in the LAN nor in the robotic microscope, which was always precise and reliable. The quality of the images and the speed of transmission were largely sufficient for intraoperative frozen section diagnosis. Minor details of the histological slides were not always appreciated on the panoramic view. This loss of some details may be due to the quality of the panoramic view, which represents the 'surfing map' to read the cases. Nevertheless, the recognition of these small details was not so relevant as to change the surgical approaches. An audioconference system, utilizing the same transmission channel, not only slightly slowed the transmission but also caused some instability to the system. The audioconference system has therefore been abandoned, and when necessary we used the normal telephone. Macroscopic images of the whole surgical specimen, the surgeon's responsibility for the sampling, good technical quality of the slide, and good training will allow us to perform remote frozen section diagnosis in the absence of the pathologist. We believe that the main, and probably only, difficulty for this approach is not of a technical nature, but reflects the pathologist's resistance to making a remote video diagnosis.
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