The continuous accumulation of biological specimens in diagnostic anatomic pathology, make the inevitable need for ‘off-site’ storage (OSS) a reality.  When the remodeling of rooms/space begins to become a repetitive, every 6 months, project. When the funding for new building construction for storage becomes exhausted.  When the last storage space options become random drawers or shelves, used merely to get specimens out of the way.  Then the need for OSS becomes a mandate.  However, in labs that demonstrate a fast-paced academic/teaching environment, such as a university school of medicine; or a diagnostic reference lab repository where there is constant consultation on specimens, (e.g. breast cancer studies); these types of facilities require continuous case specimen retrieval and review.



The benefits of on-site storage can be broken down into four major categories:  Accessibility, Control, Documentation, & Cost.

Accessibility – By far, accessibility is the premier, stand alone benefit of on-site storage.  The ability to request a block, slide, fresh specimen, or complete case study, and retrieve it within 1-24 hours is an unmatched benefit in turnaround time.  With OSS, it is not that simple to isolate a single case amongst the massive volume of blocks/slides being stored.  Most times the request has to be made for a specific box number which contains a large volume of specimens, just to get 1 case. While OSS facilities require an understood process of ordering, processing, courier and delivery time, on-site storage is as easy as a snap of the finger.  Oftentimes, accessibility is as elementary as a ‘word-of-mouth’ request from the pathologist to one of the laboratory staff; then the lab person goes to the designated floor, room, or on-site building to retrieve.  Turnaround time is monumentally reduced from OSS.

Control – There are so many areas of control maintenance that are achieved by on-site storage:

  • Turnaround time (as was previously mentioned)
  • Logistics – Specific areas of storage determined by the nature of the item (e.g., secured storage for legal/privacy concerns, research study or tissue repository specimens, etc.)
  • Archiving – Long-term routine historical casework
  • Non-routine environmental conditions (e.g., cold/frozen storage)

Documentation – OSS requires excessive paperwork and document retention to verify all OSS case housing, and item retrieval/transfer records.  With on-site storage all you need to have is a marked filing/shelving system, and a method of documenting specimen pulls and returns.

Cost – The cost of OSS can easily be thought of as a normal and continually growing part of your operating budget.  It is something that you must always maintain as well as calculate the annual increasing expense of the growing numbers of storage items.  Also, included is the cost associated with pick-ups of new storage specimens, archive retrievals from OSS and return back, and RUSH specimen retrievals. None of these costs are associated with on-site storage.



    Within the market there are some unique storage solutions that laboratories have found that can allow them to regain the benefits of on-site storage.  These items are designed for high-volume capacity, fixed or mobile storage, and organization. Below are three generations of long-term storage solutions that are all viable options in today’s market. The far-left image is the ‘Lab-Stack Tissue Storage Cabinet; a reflection of storage cabinets that were designed to offer a stronger, more durable product. The center image is the Heavy-Duty Steel Shelf System made of 11-gauge steel. This offers s 675-pound weight capacity per shelf with continuous side-by-side add-on units. This could be used in a dedicated storage room to be placed permanently along walls. The far-right image is the state of the art, next generation storage solution:  The High-Density Storage Cabinet.  This unit is designed for blocks and/or slides with a total capacity of 63,000 tissue blocks or 240,000 microscope slides.

    Whatever your preferences are in products, there are a number of options to choose from as an alternative to giving up total control of your specimens. If you have the imagination to conceive the future in storage, Lab Storage Systems has the products to satisfy that need. Contact your LSS representative today.


    • Brown, S., “Anatomic Pathology Lab Storage – Utility & Diversity”, Labstore Highlights, 2018.
    • Brown, S., “The Economy of Storage”, Labstore Highlights, 2021.
    • Dimenstein, I., “Specimen Storage in the Surgical Pathology Laboratory”, Gross Pathology, 2020.
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