Kim Rhatigan, MA, HTL (ASCP), QLS, CPHQ
What is histology? What is Pathology? When patients think of doctors, they don’t think about the pathologist and the laboratory. They think of the doctor that they visit and speak to. They think of the doctor they make an appointment to see. What most patients don’t know is that the pathologist is the one who makes the diagnosis of their condition and without them, the rest of the medical team cannot treat the patients. Behind the scenes pathologist are making critical decisions that really, no one else can act without having the information that they provide.
Pathology is the study of the causes and effects of disease or injury. It is the medical discipline that provides diagnostic information to patients and clinicians. It impacts nearly all aspects of patient care, from diagnosing cancer to managing chronic diseases through accurate laboratory testing. The terms pathology comes from the Ancient Greek roots of pathos, meaning “experience” or “suffering” and -logia, “study of”.
Pathologists are critical and fundamental to patient care. However patients and family are often unaware of the pathologist’s role in their treatment. Because they don’t ever see or meet the pathologist, they do not know the critical role that they play in getting their diagnosis. Podiatrists and Dermatologists base their treatment of the patient on the pathology diagnosis. Without it, the wheels of health care cannot move!
Histology is the study of tissues and cells under the microscope. Histopathology refers to the examination of a biopsy or surgical specimen by a pathologist, after the specimen has been processed and histological sections have been placed onto glass slides. A histotechnologist (what I am!) is a laboratory technologist who is part of the team to help prepare the tissue samples for the pathologist to make a diagnosis.
When a patient goes to a doctor’s office (podiatrist, dermatologist, etc.), the doctor may recommend a biopsy. The doctor will take a sample of the suspicious area in question and place it in formalin, which is a preservative to transport the specimen to the pathology laboratory.
The role of the histotechnologist is to prepare the patient tissue specimen to a stained glass slide. The slides are then given to the pathologist, who reads them and renders a diagnosis. The pathology report is sent to the doctor that sent the specimen in to be analyzed. The podiatrist or the dermatologist will be able to begin the treatment of the patient based upon the pathology diagnosis. The processing of the tissue specimen is critical to the preparation of a quality slide. Without a quality histology slide, the pathologist cannot make a proper diagnosis.
What is important to note for podiatrists and dermatologists is that their specimens get sent to a dermatopathology laboratory. A dermatopathologist specializes in skin, hair and nail samples. Whatever laboratory the doctor’s office decides to use, it should be sent to the dermatopathologist on staff. This is critical as they specialize in diseases of the skin and nails and this is the key to a proper diagnosis. The podiatrist or dermatologist is recommended to have a relationship with their dermatopathologist to help them treat their patients. Working with a pathologist you trust is of the utmost importance to help treat the patients. If you had a breast biopsy, you (as the patient) would want a pathologist who specializes in breast pathology to read the slides.
I am proud to be a histotechnologist and helping patients behind the scenes to get We play a critical role in helping the patient get a diagnosis and get treatment. Although we don’t have one on one time with the patients, it is highly rewarding that we can make a difference in their lives every day.