From ArticleWorld

Pathology is the medical study of diseases. Pathologists study the causation of diseases, the pathophysiology (or mechanisms) by which diseases occur, the microscopic changes seen in various diseased organs and the clinical significance of the changes they see.

Scope of pathology

Gross pathology looks at diseases from the vantage point of the visible eye during surgery or at autopsy. Pathologists know the expected weight, location and appearance of every visible body part and are looking for something that doesn’t fit with those expectations. Often gross pathology is only part of the assessment of disease. When an organ or portion of an organ is removed in autopsy or surgery, a microscopic evaluation is necessary.

Histology is the microscopic evaluation of body tissues. Pathologists can often tell the part of the body they are looking at simply by examining a tissue slide of the area. By understanding what looks normal, they are better able to determine if a particular organ or tissue was diseased and why it was diseased. Special stains and light sources are used to determine what is going on at a cellular level.

Those who study pathology also work with cells that are found detached and in solution. This is called the study of cytology. Sometimes a sample of fluid, such as urine, spinal fluid or abscess fluid can be evaluated for the presence of red blood cells, excessive amounts of inflammatory cells, bacteria or cancerous cells. This information is integrated into other clinical information to determine what exactly is going on.

Pathologists also work with other laboratory technicians in the field of laboratory medicine. This can include any of the above parts of pathology but often focuses on laboratory testing of blood or other bodily fluids and on the important function of maintaining and delivering blood to patients in need. Pathologists who specialize in this area must be knowledgeable about various machines used to evaluate bodily fluids as well as the limitations of each machine.


In the U.S., the American Board of Pathology certifies those doctors who have studied approximately four years of specialty training in the field of pathology. A pathologist can be somewhat of a generalist, a clinician, a research specialist or can specialize in areas such as forensic pathology or laboratory (clinical pathology). There are multiple areas of Secondary certifications a pathologist must get to specialize in a specific area.

The European Board of Pathology certifies pathologists in the areas of anatomic or clinical pathology. They also informally recognize autopsy pathology and experimental pathology as subspecialties and formally recognize dental pathology as a true subspecialty.