Special Stains: addressing questions through increased efficiency

Specific staining provides information to better inform treatment decisions

While routine H&E staining remains the cornerstone of histological tissue examination, Special Stains can play an integral role in a patient’s journey.

Special Stains provide pathologists with an increased level of detail, enabling the easy visualization and identification of specific cells, tissue types, cellular products, and morphology of microorganisms needed for a precise diagnosis.1,2

While this information empowers pathologists to better inform treatment decisions, manual processes and inefficiencies in the laboratory workflow have the potential to reduce productivity, which may in turn affect decision-making regarding the use of specialized testing.

Special Stains

Explore opportunities to improve H&E

For more than a century H&E has been the backbone of anatomical pathology. Learn why now is the time to transform testing.

Challenges of manual methods for Special Stains

female technician working in a laboratory
Quality and consistency:


Special Stains are sensitive and subject to high variability depending on the stability of reagents as well as the skill level and experience of the technician

Automated special stains sample processing
Workflow efficiency:


Manual preparation and application of reagents to tissue samples is time-consuming and laborious

Patient Safety - Elderly man with girl
Manual tracking:


Manual tracking of patient samples is tedious and cumbersome, and can lead to errors in accurately associating the result to the right patient

Two lab technicians working in a lab
Technician safety:


As many Special Stains reagents include toxic components, their preparation, storage and disposal are potentially hazardous for laboratory personnel

Add value efficiently - automate Special Stains


In the business of care, pressure to minimize cost is unavoidable. However, the drive toward efficiency can serve as a catalyst for change, benefitting patients and pathologists alike.

In the laboratory, automation has well-established utility for routine testing, helping to reduce errors, optimize technicians’ time, and achieve more with less. As health systems continue to shift from a volume-based to value-based business model of care, streamlining workflows for specialized testing can help elevate the value provided by the laboratory.

The journey to more personalized patient care is rife with uncertainty, and Special Stains play a key role in bringing confidence to clinical diagnoses.

Patients, pathologists, technicians, and healthcare systems can all benefit from the automation of routine and specialized testing. Roche’s automated Specials Stains solution helps laboratories increase cost-effectiveness, day-to-day staining consistency, and safety for patients and personnel.

Now, laboratory staff can deliver patient results across a broader spectrum of stains more confidently and efficiently.

The clinical value of Special Stains
Commonly used Special Stains

Commonly used Special Stains

  • Jones Silver
  • Periodic Acid Schiff’s (PAS)
  • Trichrome Masson

  • Trichrome Masson
  • Congo Red
  • Iron
  • Periodic Acid Schiff’s (PAS)
  • PAS with Diastase
  • Reticulin

  • Acid Fast Bacteria (AFB)
  • Giemsa
  • Grocott Methenamine Silver (GMS)
  • Periodic Acid Schiff's (PAS) Light Green
  • Steiner

  • Elastic
  • Mucicarmine
  • Acid Fast Bacteria (AFB)
  • Grocott Methenamine Silver (GMS)

  • Alcian Blue pH 2.5
  • Giemsa
  • Steiner
  • Mucicarmine
  • Periodic Acid Schiff’s (PAS)
  • PAS with Alcian Blue

Product image for BenchMark Special Stains instrument

BenchMark Special Stains system

The instrument that brings full automation to the histology laboratory for Special Stains so labs can optimize workflow, quality and safety.


  1. Alturkistani HA et al. Histological Stains: A Literature Review and Case Study. Glob J Health Sci. 2016;8(3):72-9.
  2. Dobromylskyj M. What’s so special about special stains? CVE Control and Therapy Series. 2016; 285.
  3. Last visited February 2020.
  4. Venkatesh V, Malaichamy V. Role of special stains as a useful complementary tool in the diagnosis of renal diseases: a case series study. Int J Res Med Sci. 2019;7(5):1539-1545.
  5. López-Marín L et al. Histopathology of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology in Salvadoran Agricultural Communities. MEDICC Rev. 2014;16(2):49-54.
  6. Clark I, Torbenson MS. Immunohistochemistry and Special Stains in Medical Liver Pathology. Adv Anat Pathol. 2017;24(2):99-109.
  7. Rotimi O et al. Histological identification of Helicobacter pylori: comparison of staining methods. J Clin Pathol. 2000;53(10):756-9.
  8. Guarner J, Brandt, M.E. Histopathologic diagnosis of fungal infections in the 21st century. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2011;24(2):247-80.
  9. Anim JT et al. Assessment of different methods for staining Helicobacter pylori in endoscopic gastric biopsies. Acta Histochem. 2000;102(2):129-37.
  10. Saiz E et al. The modified Steiner stain: a new use for an old stain? Staining cytomegalovirus-infected cells in gastrointestinal biopsies. Histochem J. 1998;30(8):549-52.
  11. Serrano L et al. Using LEAN principles to improve quality, patient safety, and workflow in histology and anatomic pathology. Adv Anat Pathol. 2010;17(3):215-21.