Telepathology is a maturing technology that, for a variety of reasons, has not been widely deployed. In addition, clinical validation is relatively modest compared with accepted telemedicine applications such as teleradiology. A prototype telepathology system (TelePath(sm)) featuring high-resolution images selected from a remote microscope site has been developed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). To validate the diagnostic efficacy of the system, a prospective study was undertaken of parallel diagnoses by conventional microscopy and telepathology with a remotely operated microscope. Slides from 99 intraoperative consultations from 29 tissue/organ sites in the University of Alabama Hospitals by 9 academic pathologists were used in the study. Each microscopic and telepathology diagnosis was compared with the final diagnosis rendered by a referee pathologist. Diagnoses were classified as correct, false positive, or false negative or classification error. Of the 99 frozen sections evaluated, 3 cases were deterred. Of the remaining 96 cases, 2 received incorrect diagnoses in both the microscopic and telepathology arms of the study. Three errors occurred only in the telepathology arm. There was 1 false-positive diagnosis, 1 false-negative diagnosis, and 1 classification error. Statistical analysis indicated no significant difference between telepathology and conventional microscopy. Qualitative data indicated that the pathologists were generally satisfied with the performance of the system. Telepathology using this system paradigm is sufficiently accurate for real time utilization in a complex surgical environment. Telepathology therefore may be an effective model to support the surgical services of hospitals lacking full-time pathology coverage, resulting in full-time access to anatomic pathology services. (C) 2000 by W.B. Saunders Company.