Guidelines for Submitting Specimens

In order to provide you with optimum service and in compliance with the CLIA 1988 Federal Regulations, we are supplying you with these guidelines for specimen collection, preservation, and transportation.


Specimens for routine processing are to be submitted in 10% neutral buffered formalin. There should be a ratio of 10 parts of fixative to 1 part specimen. If the fixative solution has evaporated to a volume that would not provide the proper 10:1 ratio, do not use this specimen bottle. Remember, formalin is a water solution of formaldehyde, which is a gas at room temperature and pressure. If the water has evaporated significantly, the formaldehyde is unlikely to be of sufficient concentration to properly fix the specimen. If the solution has evaporated completely, the crystals remaining in the bottle are buffer salts. Water added to these salts only results in a salt solution, not a fixative. Containers that have completely evaporated can be safely discarded. Those with some solution remaining can be returned to the laboratory for disposal. The bottles should be firmly capped. All bottles must be labeled identifying the fixative solution contained therein. An acceptable alternative for 10% neutral buffered formalin is alcohol (we suggest ethanol ~70%), if the specimen bottle is so labeled.

Immunofluorescent Analysis

Specimens for direct immunofluorescent analysis and for some immunohistochemical examinations must be sent in a special preservative holding solution. This solution does not have the long shelf life of formalin and should be refrigerated. When you are scheduling a biopsy procedure that would generate a sample for immunofluorescent analysis, please telephone our laboratory and we will ship you a specimen kit.


All clinical specimens sent through the mail or by parcel delivery service must be in a screw-capped bottle with the lid taped shut and placed in a plastic zip bag containing enough absorbent material (cotton balls, paper toweling) to contain the fixative solution. If more than one bottle is submitted, that bottle must be placed in a separate plastic zip bag. Place the submission form outside the plastic zip bag. The outer mailing package must be labeled with the doctor’s name, address, and phone number. The UCLA Oral Pathology Diagnostic Laboratory is pleased to provide complete submission kits along with plastic lined, pre-addressed, postage-paid mailing packaging upon request.

Criteria for Acceptance of Specimens

Specimen bottles must have the patient’s name affixed to the bottle. We provide labels for this purpose in our specimen kits. If a bottle arrives unlabeled, we are required to telephone your office to confirm the identity of the specimen. Additionally, the submission form must include the name of the patient and a licensed doctor’s name. We cannot accession any specimen without this information. The location of the lesion, pertinent clinical history, and of course, the billing information is also important to us. Your office staff may receive a phone call to obtain this information after the specimen has been accessioned into our laboratory. All specimens accessioned by our laboratory must be within the scope of practice of the specialty of oral and maxillofacial pathology. This could include lesions from the skin of the head and neck region; however, we absolutely cannot accept skin or other lesions from other body sites. We cannot accept veterinary specimens either. Finally, we do not process serum samples, specimens for microbial analysis, urinalysis, toxicology, cytogenetics, general hematology, or salivary analysis

Our overriding concern is to be of maximum service to our clinicians. Please never hesitate to inquire about special services of any sort. If you need something that we cannot provide, we will be happy to arrange and facilitate proper referrals. Please excuse our long list of do's and don’ts; not only are these required of us but they all have benefit in better patient care. We appreciate your patronage of our service.