How to improve the teaching of urine microscopy

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Abstract

Background

Urinary microscopy is difficult to teach. This paper describes a 1-day course on urine microscopy, which was based on both theoretical and practical sessions at the microscope, during which real urine samples were examined.

Methods

The course was based on: a) an introductory presentation with slides on the main components of urinary sediments and their clinical correlates; b) examination of fixed urine samples under the guidance of two experts; and c) the use of two microscopes, each equipped with a co-observation device for up to 15 observers.

Results

Throughout 2005, four courses were held in four Italian towns. Altogether, there were 97 participants (20–27 per course) from 75 laboratories, all graduates with wide but variable experience in the field. During each course, 17–22 urinary sediment components were shown by both bright-field and phase-contrast microscopy and, when indicated, by polarized light. Tests set before and after the course showed a significant improvement (p<0.01) in the identification of erythrocyte subtypes, epithelial cells, fatty components, various types of casts and drug crystals. A questionnaire conducted with participants by phone several months after the course demonstrated that 51.6% and 32.3% of laboratories have introduced or formally requested phase-contrast and polarized-light microscopy, respectively; 45.2% have changed the terminology for urinary epithelial cells; and 87.1% have identified for the first time urinary sediment components that were not recognized or not considered before the course.

Conclusions

Our course demonstrates that it is possible to improve the teaching of urinary microscopy.

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