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Surgical Pathology

What is surgical pathology?

Surgical pathology is the study of tissues removed from living patients during surgery to help diagnose a disease and determine a treatment plan. Often, the surgical pathologist provides consultation services in a wide variety of organ symptoms and subspecialties. Surgical pathologists provide diagnostic information and/or second opinions. For example, when performing breast cancer surgery, a surgical pathologist's examination of tissues removed during surgery can help the surgeon to determine whether to remove lymph nodes under the arm, as well.

Surgical pathology includes both the physical examination of the tissue with the naked eye, as well as examining processed tissue under a microscope. New techniques of examination of tissue and cell specimens involve molecular diagnostics (DNA/RNA analysis), which involves analyzing DNA and proteins in the blood. Examples of the uses of the technology include the ability to:

  • Distinguish between benign (noncancerous) and malignant (cancerous) white blood cells

  • Detect early genetic changes which may result in cancer

  • Identify infectious agents in body tissues


Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 10/6/2014
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