Using biased image analysis for improving unbiased stereological number estimation – a pilot simulation study of the smooth fractionator


Jonathan E. Gardi. Tel: + 45 8942 2945; fax: + 45 8942 2952; e-mail:


The smooth fractionator was introduced in 2002. The combination of a smoothing protocol with a computer-aided stereology tool provides better precision and a lighter workload. This study uses simulation to compare fractionator sampling based on the smooth design, the commonly used systematic uniformly random sampling design and the ordinary simple random sampling design. The smooth protocol is performed using biased information from crude (but fully automatic) image analysis of the fields of view. The different design paradigms are compared using simulation in three different cell distributions with reference to sample size, noise and counting frame position. Regardless of clustering, sample size or noise, the fractionator based on a smooth design is more efficient than the fractionator based on a systematic uniform random design, which is more efficient than a fractionator based on simple random design. The fractionator based on a smooth design is up to four times more efficient than a simple random design.