Anatomic pathology is a medical specialty that is concerned with the diagnosis of disease based on the macroscopic, microscopic, biochemical, immunologic and molecular examination of organs and tissues. It is one of two branches of pathology, the other being clinical pathology, the diagnosis of disease through the laboratory analysis of bodily fluids and/or tissues. Often, pathologists practice both anatomical and clinical pathology, a combination known as general pathology.
Anatomic pathology relates to the processing, examination, and diagnosis of surgical specimens by a physician trained in pathological diagnosis. Clinical pathology is the division that processes the test requests more familiar to the general public, such as blood cell counts, coagulation studies, urinalysis, blood glucose level determinations and throat cultures. Its subsections include chemistry, hematology, microbiology, immunology, urinalysis and blood bank.
Anatomical pathology is itself divided in subspecialties, the main ones being surgical pathology (breast, gynecological, endocrine, gastrointestinal, GU, soft tissue, head and neck, dermatopathology), neuropathology, hematopathology, cytopathology, and forensic pathology.
Anatomic pathology is one of the two primary certifications offered by the American Board of Pathology (the other is clinical pathology) and one of three primary certifications offered by the American Osteopathic Board of Pathology. To be certified in anatomic pathology, the trainee must complete four years of medical school followed by three years of residency training. Many U.S. pathologists are certified in both anatomic pathology and clinical pathology, which requires a total of four years of residency. After completing residency, many pathologists enroll in further years of fellowship training to gain expertise in a subspecialty.
Anatomic pathologists usually work in hospitals, investigating the effects of disease on the human body via autopsies and microscopic examination of tissues, cells, and other specimens. Medical laboratory directors are responsible for the sophisticated laboratory tests on samples of tissues or fluids and the quality and accuracy of the tests. The practice of pathology is most often conducted in community hospitals or in academic medical centers, where patient care, diagnostic services, and research go hand in hand.