Cell blocks in cytology: review of preparation methods, advantages, and limitations

American Society of Cytopathology Clinical Practice Committee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Cell blocks are cytologic preparations that are processed as paraffin embedded blocks in a manner comparable to formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue in surgical pathology. In addition to serving as an adjunct to other cytologic preparations for morphologic diagnosis, cell blocks play an increasingly important role as they yield tissue sections that can be utilized for ancillary testing such as immunohistochemical stains and molecular studies. While essentially universally viewed as playing a pivotal role in cytopathology practice, there are various factors that limit their use in practice and contribute to dissatisfaction with cell block quality. Cell block preparation, as opposed to tissue processing in surgical pathology, is more variable with many different protocols in use today. This review explores the most commonly used cell block preparation techniques currently in use with review of the unique advantages and limitations each method presents. The goal of this work is to serve as a resource that can aid in making more informed decisions about which cell block protocol may work best for individual laboratories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-88
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Society of Cytopathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023


  • Cell block
  • Cell-gel
  • Cellient
  • Collodion bag
  • Cytology
  • HistoGel
  • Plasma thrombin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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