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What Is Clinical Pathology?

Clinical pathologists study blood.
Clinical pathologists test urine and other body fluids for signs of disease.
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  • Written By: Amy Hunter
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 April 2014
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Clinical pathology is the study and diagnosis of diseases by analyzing body fluids. Clinical pathologists study fluids such as blood and urine to diagnose diseases. A clinical pathologist may choose to specialize in one type of pathology, such as chemistry, hematology or microbiology.

In the United States, clinical pathologists are certified through the American Board of Pathology. This board licenses physicians in a variety of specialties. In some countries, it is not necessary to be a doctor to specialize in clinical pathology. Some countries allow other medical professionals, such as pharmacists, to receive licensing.

Each area of specialization in clinical pathology has its own unique set of standards. Clinical chemistry, for example, focuses on the study and analysis of body fluids. Clinical chemistry is also known as chemical pathology. Laboratories that focus on chemical pathology run tests to measure hormone function, the immune system and antibody function and the function of drugs on the system, or pharmacology.

Another clinical pathology specialty is in hematology. These clinical pathologists work with blood banks to process donated blood so that it can best be used. While the majority of blood that is donated is donated as whole blood, it is often broken down into various components before it is used.

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Blood that will be used for transfusions will not have the components separated out, but will have a preservative added. Some collected blood is spun in a centrifuge. This causes the heavier components to settle to the bottom, separating the red blood cells and plasma. Proper handling of blood after collection is vital for the safety of the patient as well as to prevent valuable blood from being wasted.

A final specialization in clinical pathology is medical microbiology. Medical microbiology is the study of bacteria, viruses and parasites. This type of pathology is closely related to the study of immunology and the study of infectious diseases.

Clinical pathology is one medical career path that has many branches. Some clinical pathologists will work closely with others, while others will spend a great deal of time alone in a laboratory. When deciding on what area to specialize in, you should take into consideration how much solitary time you want as part of your work load. Regardless of the specialty, few clinical pathologists work directly with patients.

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