Anatomic/Anatomical Pathology

Anatomic pathology is somewhat different from clinical pathology, which deals with the measurement of chemical constituents of blood and other body fluids (clinical chemistry), analysis of blood cells (hematology), and identification of microorganisms (microbiology), to name a few examples. The technical advances are blurring the distinctions between the two in many areas. Overlaps include, for example, flow cytometry, cytogenetics and molecular pathology, which can be performed on both tissue samples and blood or body fluid samples. Therefore, some knowledge of this branch of medicine may help you better understand the tests that your or a family members health practitioner may consider in diagnosing, monitoring, and treating a condition.

There are two main subdivisions within anatomic pathology:

  • Histopathology, which involves examination of intact tissue under the microscope. This is often aided by the use of special staining techniques and other associated tests, such as using antibodies to identify different components of the tissue.
  • Cytopathology (cytology), which is the examination of single cells or small groups of cells. A common cytology test is the cervical Pap smear. Specimens are processed by physician assistants and technologists and then examined under a microscope by a physician pathologist. The pathologist gives the definitive diagnosis to the health practitioner, who then decides on the most appropriate mode of treatment and patient management.

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