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Inside the Lab Technology and innovation, Quality assurance and quality control

Pathology Saws: Better Safe than Sorry

sponsored by EXAKT Technologies

An interview with Jerrod Roberts

Tell me about EXAKT Technologies’ pathology saw products...
The original pathology saw was the EXAKT 312 – it’s a floor standing unit that allows for a wide range of sample sizes (from full legs to femoral heads) to be cut due to its nine-inch cutting height. The EXAKT 302 came next to address facilities with limited space; that one is a benchtop model with a maximum four-inch cutting height, limiting the user to cut smaller samples, such as femoral heads and appendages. Both saws have the same safety features, water feature, and use a diamond band for cutting.

What was the reasoning for developing saws with a diamond band instead of a traditional tooth blade?
EXAKT engineers wanted to design a safer saw specifically for the pathologist and pathologists’ assistant. Traditional tooth blades aggressively grab and pull, but our diamond band saw grinds instead of cutting. The advantages of this are twofold: safety and quality of cut. If you accidentally bump into the band, there is no immediate risk of injury, unlike a tooth blade that tears the sample. In turn, this creates a pristine cut with minimal tissue damage. Plus, the user can safely cut the sample as thin as 3 mm.

How are the saws designed specifically for pathology labs?
To the best of our knowledge, EXAKT saws are the first (and only) saws that are specifically designed with the pathology lab in mind. The safety aspect of the diamond band is a significant part of this – as well as the unique water feature. There are two nozzles on the EXAKT 312 that help contain dust and flush away debris while cutting to reduce bone dust or other contaminants from becoming airborne.

Another unique feature is the magnetic safety switches that – for example – stop the machine if a door is open while running; the machine applies a brake that shuts the machine down. Therefore, the user can’t have a door open and run the saw at the same time, which isn’t a feature of traditional saws in the market. The saw was designed specifically with user safety in mind – that’s our first and foremost priority at EXAKT Technologies. This safety assurance then reduces sample processing time by allowing more laboratory professionals to use the saw.

When designing our saws, the engineers also kept in mind the variety of samples that come through the lab. The saws can cut both soft and hard tissue samples, which is the goal of a pathology lab; however, they will also cut through a variety of implants, including titanium and ceramic. That’s a priceless advantage for labs that see samples containing implants. Traditional saws with a tooth blade grab and pull but aren’t able to cut through the implant; however, our saws are designed for pathology labs that work with a wide variety of samples.

How has EXAKT Technologies ensured the safety of its saws?
EXAKT conducted extensive research on how to protect the user. Our market research revealed that there are many labs in which only a limited number of pathologists or pathologists’ assistants cut samples because of the risk of injury with their current saws. This led EXAKT’s engineers to create a saw that includes the diamond band and water circulation. EXAKT has undertaken a tremendous amount of work to fulfill this unmet need. While the diamond band gets a lot of attention, the water circulation is an important part of the safety discussion. Because water flows continuously over the band, airborne dust and debris is dramatically reduced. In fact, researchers from the University of Central Oklahoma recently studied the difference in air quality after using an EXAKT saw with water circulation versus a typical butcher saw (1). They concluded that water circulation has a significant effect on the production of dust during cutting of the pathology sample. Additionally, the EXAKT saws produced an insignificant amount of dust and less sample volume loss compared to the general butcher saw. 

What can labs gain from using EXAKT’s pathology saws in their day-to-day work?
Increased user safety, reduced processing time, and ease of use are all significant gains, and labs are taking notice. In fact, a pathologist at a university hospital we previously worked with mentioned to me that they have cut days off their sample processing time because the organization allows more people to use the saw. This institution was outsourcing most of its sample processing because of the risk of injury, but now it’s cutting in-house and has already significantly reduced its sample processing time. Additionally, there is no need to decalcify the sample prior to cutting. As you can imagine, this really helps to reduce processing time and it makes a lab much more efficient.

What would you say to pathologists and lab medicine professionals that might be hesitant to use these saws in their lab?
The two hesitations we typically encounter are budget and a lack of space. We have addressed both hesitations by introducing a benchtop model. Therefore, the question becomes, “Can you afford not to use this in your lab?” By that, I’m referring to the user’s safety. One workman’s compensation claim can make this saw pay for itself multiple times over and, with the reduced production time, the increased number of laboratory professionals who are comfortable using the saw makes it an asset that pays itself off in a short period of time. We stay in close contact with our customers, and I have yet to encounter one who has said the saw has not changed the way their pathology lab functions – it’s the one piece of equipment they say they will not want to be without.

Jerrod Roberts is CEO of EXAKT Technologies, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA.

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  1. T Milligan (2021). Available at: https://bit.ly/36bBGng.

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