Virtual microscopy

Author: Ellen Mooney, M.D., Director, Nordic Institute of Virtual Dermatopathology Chief Editor: Dr Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, 12 October 2014.

What is virtual microscopy?

“Virtual microscopy” is the software-assisted manipulation of high-definition digital images of tissue sections, to simulate the experience of examining glass slides under a standard optical microscope. Magnifications of up to × 40 can be achieved.

Why use virtual microscopy?

The advantages of using digital images for microscopic examination of pathology specimens are that they are easily duplicated and do not deteriorate. In addition, they can be stored, catalogued and managed with relative ease.

How can virtual microscopy be used?

Teaching, testing and e-learning

Computers are now readily available in educational institutions and are cheaper than microscopes.

Continuing Medical Education and External Quality Assurance

Virtual microscopy is also useful in continuing medical education (CME) or continuing professional development (CPD) and external quality assurance (EQA).


Consultation between pathologists and clinicians around the globe is easily manageable. Suitable software allows incorporation with the slide data of:

Storage of scanned images

Some institutions use virtual pathology for filing purposes.

Disadvantages of virtual microscopy

Disadvantages of virtual microscopy may include:

Research into the validity of virtual microscopy

Studies of diagnostic accuracy using virtual microscopy have been done comparing use of glass slides to digital slides as well as photomicrographs to digital slides. See references below. This is not a comprehensive list.

Related information

Make a donation

Donate Today

Help us to update and maintain DermNet New Zealand

Submit your images

We are expanding our image library

Contact us

Skin lesion photography

Watch Dr Amanda Oakley presenting "Skin lesion photography" at The Australasian Skin Cancer Congress.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
DermNet NZ Newsletter