|Names||Doctor, Medical Specialist|
|Education required||Degree in Medicine|
|Fields of employment||Hospitals, Clinics|
|Average salary||▲ USD $242,000|
Pathology is the study and diagnosis of disease through examination of organs, tissues, bodily fluids, and whole bodies (autopsies). Pathology also encompasses the related scientific study of disease processes, called general pathology.
In clinical psychology or psychiatry, the focus is on mental experience and functioning so the term psychopathology is used. Neurological disorders are studied within neurology, where the term neuropathy is generally reserved for cases of peripheral nerve pathology.
The history of pathology can be traced to the earliest application of the scientific method to the field of medicine, a development which occurred in the Middle East during the Islamic Golden Age and then in Western Europe during the Italian Renaissance.
Early systematic human infections were carried out by the Ancient Greek physicians Herophilus of Chalcedon and Erasistratus of Chios in the early part of the third century BC. The first physician known to have made postmortem dissections was the Arabian physician Avenzoar (1091–1161). Rudolf Virchow (1821–1902) is generally recognized to be the father of microscopic pathology. Most early pathologists were also practicing physicians or surgeons.
General pathology, also called investigative pathology, experimental pathology, or theoretical pathology, is a broad and complex scientific field which seeks to understand the mechanisms of injury to cells and tissues, as well as the body's means of responding to and repairing injury. Areas of study include cellular adaptation to injury, necrosis, inflammation, wound healing, and neoplasia. It forms the foundation of pathology, the application of this knowledge to diagnose diseases in humans and animals.
The term general pathology is also used to describe the practice of both anatomical and clinical pathology.
Pathologists are doctors who diagnose and characterize disease in living patients by examining biopsies or bodily fluids. In addition, pathologists interpret medical laboratory tests to help prevent illness or monitor a chronic condition.
The vast majority of cancer diagnoses are made by pathologists. Pathologists examine tissue biopsies to determine if they are benign or cancerous. Some pathologists specialize in genetic testing that can, for example, determine the most appropriate treatment for particular types of cancer. In addition, a pathologist analyzes blood samples from a patient's annual physical and alerts their primary care physician to any changes in their health early, when successful treatment is most likely. Pathologists also review results of tests ordered or performed by specialists, such as blood tests ordered by a cardiologist, a biopsy of a skin lesion removed by a dermatologist, or a Pap test performed by a gynecologist, to detect abnormalities.
Pathologists work with other doctors, medical specialty societies, medical laboratory professionals, and health care consumer organizations to set guidelines and standards for medical laboratory testing that help improve a patient's medical care and guide treatment, as well as ensure the quality and safety of domestic and international medical laboratories.
Pathologists may also conduct autopsies to investigate causes of death. Autopsy results can aid living patients by revealing a hereditary disease unknown to a patient's family.
Pathology is a core discipline of medical school and many pathologists are also teachers. As managers of medical laboratories (which include chemistry, microbiology, cytology, the blood bank, etc.), pathologists play an important role in the development of laboratory information systems. Although the medical practice of pathology grew out of the tradition of investigative pathology, most modern pathologists do not perform original research.
Pathology is a unique medical specialty. Pathology touches all of medicine, as diagnosis is the foundation of all patient care. In fact, more than 70 percent of all decisions about diagnosis and treatment, hospital admission, and discharge rest on medical test results.
Pathologists play a critical role on the patient care team, working with other doctors to treat patients and guide care. To be licensed, candidates must complete medical training, an approved residency program, and be certified by an appropriate body. In the US, certification is by the American Board of Pathology or the American Osteopathic Board of Pathology. The organization of subspecialties within pathology varies between nations, but usually includes anatomic pathology and clinical pathology.
Anatomical pathology (Commonwealth) or anatomic pathology (United States) is a medical specialty that is concerned with the diagnosis of disease based on the gross, microscopic, chemical, immunologic and molecular examination of organs, tissues, and whole bodies (autopsy).
Anatomical pathology is itself divided in subspecialties, the main ones being surgical pathology, cytopathology, and forensic pathology. To be licensed to practice pathology, one has to complete medical school and secure a license to practice medicine. An approved residency program and certification (in the United States, the American Board of Pathology or the American Osteopathic Board of Pathology) is usually required to obtain employment or hospital privileges.
Anatomical pathology is one of two branches of pathology, the other being clinical pathology, the diagnosis of disease through the laboratory analysis of bodily fluids and tissues. Often, pathologists practice both anatomical and clinical pathology, a combination known as general pathology. The distinction between anatomic and clinical pathology is increasingly blurred by the introduction of technologies that require new expertise and the need to provide patients and referring physicians with integrated diagnostic reports. Similar specialties exist in veterinary pathology.
Clinical pathology is a medical specialty that is concerned with the diagnosis of disease based on the laboratory analysis of bodily fluids such as blood and urine, and tissues using the tools of chemistry, microbiology, hematology and molecular pathology. Clinical pathologists work in close collaboration with medical technologists hospital administrations and referring physicians to ensure the accuracy and optimal utilization of laboratory testing.
Clinical pathology is one of the two major divisions of pathology, the other being anatomical pathology. Often, pathologists practice both anatomical and clinical pathology, a combination sometimes known as general pathology.
Forensic pathology is a branch of pathology concerned with determining the cause of death by examination of a cadaver. The autopsy is performed by the pathologist at the request of a coroner usually during the investigation of criminal law cases and civil law cases in some jurisdictions. Forensic pathologists are also frequently asked to confirm the identity of a cadaver.
The word forensics is derived from the Latin forēnsis meaning forum.
Veterinary pathologists are doctors of veterinary medicine who specialize in the diagnosis of diseases through the examination of animal tissue and body fluids. As with medical pathology, veterinary pathology is divided in two branches, anatomical pathology and clinical pathology. Veterinary pathologists are critical participants in the drug development process.
Plant pathology (also phytopathology) is the scientific study of plant diseases caused by pathogens (infectious diseases) and environmental conditions (physiological factors). Organisms that cause infectious disease include fungi, oomycetes, bacteria, viruses, viroids, virus-like organisms, phytoplasmas, protozoa, nematodes and parasitic plants. Not included are insects, mites, vertebrate or other pests that affect plant health by consumption of plant tissues. Plant pathology also involves the study of pathogen identification, disease etiology, disease cycles, economic impact, plant disease epidemiology, plant disease resistance, how plant diseases affect humans and animals, pathosystem genetics, and management of plant diseases.
The "disease triangle" is a central concept of plant pathology. It is based on the principle that infectious diseases develop, or do not develop, based on three-way interactions between the host, the pathogen, and environmental conditions.
Molecular pathology is an emerging discipline within pathology, and focuses in the study and diagnosis of disease through the examination of molecules within organs, tissues or bodily fluids. Molecular pathology shares some aspects of practice with both anatomic pathology and clinical pathology, molecular biology, biochemistry, proteomics and genetics, and is sometimes considered a "crossover" discipline. It is multi-disciplinary in nature and focuses mainly on the sub-microscopic aspects of disease and unknown illnesses with strange causes.
It is a scientific discipline that encompasses the development of molecular and genetic approaches to the diagnosis and classification of human tumors, the design and validation of predictive biomarkers for treatment response and disease progression, the susceptibility of individuals of different genetic constitution to develop cancer, and the environmental and lifestyle factors implicated in carcinogenesis.