Leading the Way in Pathology
What Is Pathology?
Pathology is the study of disease — its cause, processes and specific diagnosis — through the examination of organs, tissues, body fluids, cells and molecules.
Who Are the NSLIJ Pathologists and What Is Their Role?
In addition to earning a medical degree, a pathologist is required to complete a four- to five-year post-graduate training program in the medical subspecialty of pathology. All of the pathologists at the Department of Pathology at North Shore-LIJ Health System are board eligible or board certified which means that they have achieved the highest level of competence in their specialty as verified by a professional board.
Pathologists work with highly specialized laboratories and utilize very sophisticated techniques and equipment. While you may never interact directly with them, pathologists play an integral role in your health care. Many of your physician’s decisions for your primary or specialized care will depend on the expertise and advice of a pathologist. Pathologists make diagnoses, compile reports, determine which additional tests can provide prognostic information, and they consult with your physician on your future care and treatment.
In addition to their clinical work, North Shore-LIJ pathologists participate in the training of pathology residents and fellows in clinical practice and the education and supervision of medical students during their clinical rotations in the laboratory. The North Shore-LIJ Department of Pathology has adopted an integrative approach to the field. Scientists and physicians strive to work collaboratively to integrate the knowledge gained in research with the provision of improved patient care.
North Shore-LIJ pathologists publish numerous clinical papers in scientific journals and many of our pathologists are featured speakers at national and international meetings in their respective areas of expertise. In this way, their scientific research and discoveries contribute to the advancement of diagnostic practice.
What Happens to Your Specimen When It Is Sent to Pathology?
It is very important to keep track of each patient’s specimen(s); therefore, each patient is given a unique number in the Department of Pathology laboratory information system. This number enables us to track your specimen at whatever point in the process it may be located.
The specimen’s first stop after accessioning is at the grossing station. Our highly trained pathologist assistants examine your specimen and describe its appearance. They take measurements and follow established protocols that ensure that the most important piece or pieces of tissue are sent forward for processing and examination under a microscope.
In order to get a specimen on a slide and ready to view under a microscope, the tissue must undergo "processing." Before a tissue can be cut thin enough for viewing under a microscope, it must be rendered firm and cohesive. First, the high water content of tissue is removed. Using a series of reagents, the tissue is then infiltrated with a paraffin substance. This paraffin 'block' can now be cut and stained.
- Preparing Slides
A machine called a microtome is used to cut the tissue into 4 to 6-uM sections which a histology technologist (histology is the microscopic study of tissue structure) puts on a slide. The slides are then "stained" so that the cell structures can be seen and differentiated under a microscope. There are lots of special kinds of stains that stain different tissue features. The histology technologists are educated to perform all of these different types of stains.
- Pathologist Diagnosis
The slides are now finally ready for the pathologist to view under a microscope and render a diagnosis. Sometimes the pathologist will see something that he wants to study more closely, so he may order some additional stains or studies from the laboratory. In addition to looking at your tissue specimen, the pathologist considers your health history and other signs and symptoms when making a diagnosis.