Aspirates Make smears, air dry and fix immediately in methanol (IMS) or, ideally, stain immediately with a haematological stain which contains alcohol such as Diff Quick, Giemsa or Leishman. This gives getter staining than delayed staining in the laboratory. Keep away from formalin vapour (present in the plastic of histology sample containers).

Making smears You may find it easier to dilute the aspirate with a little saline. Ensure you are pulling not pushing a smear - as with a blood sample. If this doesn't work, try to squash preparations between two slides, a sable (not nylon or synthetic) paintbrush smear or imprinting the aspirate.

Pleural, peritoneal and joint fluids...need cell counts and protein estimates for full interpretation. One EDTA sample is adequate for all these. Low cellularity samples should be centrifuged before smearing.

CSF must be examined freshly, so please do not send CSF.

Urine deteriorates rapidly, so only send stained smears. Low cellularity samples should be centrifuged before smearing.

Prostatic samples. Use prostatic massage to obtain these. Lubricate a urinary catheter of sufficient length to reach the prostate. Clean the penis tip. Introduce the catheter and massage the prostate per rectum. An assistant should draw on the catheter. Withdraw the catheter. Cells from the tip should be smeared on slides and treated as above.