IHC and H&E slide stainers stain prepared slides of processed and cut human, animal or plant tissue to enhance the contrast within a specimen for study under a microscope. Automated slide stainers consist of the following major components::
- A control and monitoring system – the display where all operations are controlled.
- A solution reservoir, which includes slide heating stations, staining stations, wash stations and drying stations.
- A robotic arm, which is a three-axis transport mechanism for slide baskets.
- A fume control system, which uses activated-carbon filters to remove harmful vapors from inside the instrument.
The operator loads the slides into the solution reservoir where they are heated; stained once or twice, depending on need; and rinsed and dried – which prepares specimens to be coverslipped. Automated models can carry out multiple staining protocols simultaneously.
Common automated slide stainer problems:
- Staining quality is poor. This will cause the tissue to be unreadable and produce the potential for a misdiagnosis.
- Fluids leak from the solution reservoir. This will cause a spill that requires cleanup.
- Flooding of the slide stainer. This will cause a spill that requires cleanup.
- Solution reservoir doesn’t drain. This will cause a spill that requires cleanup.
- Solutions overflow from the reservoir. This will cause a spill that requires cleanup.
- Excessive noise is produced. This will cause a nuisance.
- No movement in the solution reservoir. This will cause poor staining.
- Robotic arm jams. This could cause the slide to break. The operator would have to repeat all steps to produce a slide, which becomes a real problem if there isn’t enough tissue to produce another specimen.
- Display errors. This will cause the operator to have to solve the problem behind the error, or it will shut down the slide stainer, depending on the error message.
- Control panel display is blank. This will cause the instrument not to operate properly.
- No power to the slide stainer: This will prevent the instrument from operating.
- Excessive odor. This is likely from a chemical, creates a nuisance and could indicate a deeper problem.
- Fan doesn’t operate. This will likely lead to you smelling chemicals from the slide stainer and create a nuisance.
Automated slide stainer troubleshooting:
In the case of error codes on the tissue processor control panel display, please refer to the product user manual. Different manufacturers use different codes and have different troubleshooting steps. In the case of a loss of power, remember to check circuit breakers and fuses.
When a Tech One technician is needed to make repairs, he will diagnose the problem and make the appropriate repairs. The typical service call is one to three hours.
Automated slide stainer maintenance tips:
- Clean all components daily to prevent dirt from building up. Dirt build up can cause the stainer to jam and slides to break.
- Make sure to replace the slide stainer’s charcoal filter every three months.
- When unsure, call a Tech One technician for assistance.
Automated slide stainer makes & models Tech One repairs:
- Leica Biosystems: ST4040 Linear, ST5010 Autostainer XL
- Sakura: DRS-601, DRS 2000, Prisma
- Thermo Scientific: Linistain, Linistat, Varistain 24-4, Varistain Gemini AS, Varistain Gemini ES, Varistain XY, 7200 & 3600 IHC
- Biocare & Dako: 7200 & 3600 IHC stainers
- Batch mode: An automated slide stainer can be programmed to be started in either batch or continuous mode. Batch mode allows another process to start only when the previous run is In continuous mode, the operator can add basket sets in a random-access mode, which maximizes efficiency and throughput.
- Multiple staining methods: Automated slide strainers can accommodate routine staining procedures, such as Haematoxylin and eosin (H&E), Papanicolaou (Pap), or special stains.