Common Pathology Terms

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Accession: log or document of specimens in the lab.


Anatomic Pathology: the subspecialty of pathology that pertains to the gross and microscopic study of organs and tissues removed for biopsy or during postmortem examination, and also the interpretation of the results of such study.


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Benign: of no danger to health, especially relating to a tumorous growth; not malignant; something that does not metastasize and treatment or removal is curative.


Biopsy: the removal and examination of tissue, cells, or fluids from the living body; a procedure that involves obtaining a tissue specimen for microscopic analysis to establish a precise diagnosis.


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C. Difficile: (clostridium difficile; c. diff) a bacterium that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon.


CAP: (College of American Pathologists) leading organization of board-certified pathologists advocating excellence in the practice of pathology and laboratory medicine.


CLIA: (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) established by Congress in 1988 to ensure quality standards for all laboratory testing .


Carcinoma: a malignant new growth made up of epithelial cells tending to infiltrate surrounding tissues and to give rise to metastases; Carcinomas tend to infiltrate into adjacent tissue and spread (metastasize) to distant organs.


Chlamydia: a disease caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis, the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Sexually active individuals and individuals with multiple partners are at highest risk.


Chromosome: the self-replicating genetic structures of cells containing the cellular DNA that bears in its nucleotide sequence the linear array of genes.


Clinical Pathology: the subspecialty in pathology concerned with the theoretical and technical aspects (i.e., the methods or procedures) of chemistry, immunohematology, microbiology, parasitology, immunology, hematology, and other fields as they pertain to the diagnosis of disease and the care of patients, as well as to the prevention of disease. It does not require professional interpretation of a pathologist.


Cystic Fibrosis: an inherited disorder of the mucus and sweat glands where there is widespread dysfunction of the exocrine glands, characterized by signs of chronic pulmonary disease. CF causes your mucus to be thick and sticky. The mucus clogs the lungs, causing breathing problems and making it easy for bacteria to grow. This can lead to problems such as repeated lung infections and lung damage.


Coagulation: the process of clot formation.


Core Biopsy: removal with a large needle of a piece of a lump. The piece is sent to the lab to see if the lump is benign or malignant.


Cytology: the study of cells; a branch of biology dealing with the structure, function, multiplication, pathology, and life history of cells.


Cytopathology: the study of disease changes within individual cells or cell types.


Cytotechnologist: a medical technologist trained in Cytotechnology.


Cytotechnology: a specialty in medical technology concerned with the identification of cells and cellular abnormalities (as in cancer).


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Dermatology: The field of medicine that specializes in the treatment of skin disorders.


Dermatopathology: microscopic anatomic pathology of the skin using the scientific study of the nature of disease and its causes, processes, development, and consequences.


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EHR/EMR: (Electronic Health Records) focuses on the total health of the patient beyond standard clinical data collected at provider and is built to share information with other health care providers that are involved in a single patients care; (Electronic Medical Records) digital version of the paper charts in a clinician’s office including treatment and medical history of patient.


Eosin: A red, fluorescent, bromine-containing, water-insoluble dye used to stain cytoplasm of cells pink (routine stains in histology – H&E, see also Hematoxylin).


Esoteric test: the analysis of ‘rare’ substances or molecules that are not performed in a routine clinical lab.


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Fine Needle Aspiration: the process of obtaining a sample of cells and bits of tissue for examination by applying suction through a fine needle attached to a syringe – abbreviation FNA. Highly specialized and produces cytology specimen; procedure to remove cells or fluid from tissues using a needle with an empty syringe. Cells or breast fluid is extracted by pulling back on plunger and then is analyzed by a physician.


FISH: (fluorescence in situ hybridization) a molecular technique used in chromosome studies. FISH employs fluorescent (fluorescein tags) that glow under ultraviolet light to detect the hybridization (the combination) of molecular probes with specific chromosomes and specific chromosome regions. In FISH, the process vividly paints chromosomes or portions of chromosomes with fluorescent molecules. This technique is useful for identifying chromosomal abnormalities and gene mapping. For example, a FISH probe to chromosome 21 permits one to “fish” for cells with trisomy 21, an extra chromosome 21, the cause of Down syndrome.


Fixative: substance used for the preservation of specimen tissues; formalin is the most common form.


Flow Cytometry: method of measuring fluorescence from stained cells that are in suspension and flowing through a narrow orifice, usually in combination with one or two lasers to activate the dyes; used to measure cell size, number, viability, and nucleic acid content with the aid of acridine orange, Kasten fluorescent Feulgen stain, ethidium bromide, trypan blue, and other selected staining reagents.


Frozen Section: Part of biopsy material frozen immediately to enable pathological analysis in a few minutes on a microscope slide.


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Gastroenterology: the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders affecting the stomach, intestines, and associated organs.


Gonorrhea: infection is due to Neisseria gonorrhoeae which is a curable sexually transmitted disease that is most common in young adults. The bacterium that causes gonorrhea can infect the genital tract, mouth or anus.


Gross: coarse or large; visible to the naked eye, as gross pathology.


Grossing: (macroscopic examination) describing specimens size, shape, color and any abnormalities; margins and orientation.


Group B Strep: a leading cause of a form of neonatal sepsis that has a 10-20% mortality rate and leaves a large number of survivors with brain damage; also a leading cause of meningitis.


Gynecology: the branch of medicine dealing with the diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting the female reproductive organs.


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Hematology-oncology: the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of blood diseases (hematology) and cancer (oncology) and research into them. Hematology-oncology includes such diseases as iron deficiency anemia, hemophilia, sickle cell disease, the thalassemia’s, leukemia’s and lymphomas.


Hematopathology: the division of pathology concerned with diseases of the blood and of haemopoietic and lymphoid tissue; study of blood, bone marrow and the organs and tissues that use blood cells to perform their functions.


Hematoxylin: bluish, purple dye which stains the nucleus of the cells.


Histochemistry: study of the chemical composition of tissues by means of specific staining reactions; the study of intracellular distribution of chemicals, reaction sites, enzymes, etc., often by means of staining reactions, radioactive isotope uptake, selective metal distribution in electron microscopy, or other methods.


Histology: the study of cells and tissue on the microscopic level; a branch of anatomy that deals with the minute structure of animal and plant tissues as discernible with the microscope.


Histopathology: science concerned with the study of microscopic changes in diseased tissue.


Histotechnologist: a technician who specializes in histotechnology.


Histotechnology: technical histology concerned specifically with preparing and processing (as by sectioning, fixing, and staining) histological specimens.


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Immunohistochemistry: histochemical localization of immunoreactive substances using labeled antibodies as reagents; demonstration of specific antigens in tissues by the use of markers that are either fluorescent dyes or enzymes such as horseradish peroxidase.


Infectious Disease: a disease resulting from the presence and activity of a microbial agent.


Inherited Genetics: tests performed to determine whether an individual is a carrier for certain inherited disorders.


Intraoperative Consultation: the name given to the whole intervention by the pathologist, which includes not only frozen section but also gross evaluation of the specimen, examination of cytology preparations taken on the specimen (e.g. touch imprints), and aliquoting of the specimen for special studies (e.g. molecular pathology techniques, flow cytometry). The report given by the pathologist is usually limited to a “benign” or “malignant” diagnosis, traditionally shouted into an intercom.


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JCAHO: (Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to continuously improve the safety and quality of care provided to the public; this is done through the provision of health accreditation and related services that support performance improvement in health care organizations.


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Karyotyping: a test used to identify chromosome abnormalities as the cause of malformation or disease. The test can be performed on a sample of blood, bone marrow, amniotic fluid, or placental tissue.


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Malignant: tending to become worse, deteriorate and produce death or having the properties of anaplasia, invasiveness, and metastasis; malignant tumors.


Microarray: a method of evaluating a large number of DNA changes on a slide which has RNA fragments attached.


Molecular Pathology: the study of biochemical and biophysical cellular mechanisms as the basic factors in disease.


Morphology: branch of bioscience dealing with the study of the form and structure of organisms and their specific structural features.


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Needle Biopsy: the removal of a sample of tissue using a wide-core needle with suction; any of several methods (as fine needle aspiration or core biopsy) for obtaining a sample of cells or tissue by inserting a hollow needle through the skin and withdrawing the sample from the tissue or organ to be examined.


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Pap Smear: a special stain performed usually on a smear taken from the neck of the cervix; a method or a test based on it for the early detection of cancer especially of the uterine cervix that involves staining exfoliated cells by a special technique which differentiates diseased tissue – called also Papanicolaou smear, Papanicolaou test, Pap test.


Pathologist: a doctor who specializes in identifying diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.


Pathology: the branch of medicine concerned with disease, especially its structure and its functional effects on the body; the scientific study of the nature of disease and its causes, processes, development, and consequences.


PCR: (polymerase chain reaction) an in vitro technique for rapidly synthesizing large quantities of a given DNA segment that involves separating the DNA into its two complementary strands, binding a primer to each single strand at the end of the given DNA segment where synthesis will start, using DNA polymerase to synthesize two-stranded DNA from each single strand, and repeating the process.


Pharmacogenomics: a biotechnological science that combines the techniques of medicine, pharmacology, and genomics and is concerned with developing drug therapies to compensate for genetic differences in patients which cause varied responses to a single therapeutic regimen.


Prenatal: Existing or occurring before birth, with reference to the fetus.


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Sequencing: Determination of the order of nucleotides (base sequences) in a DNA or RNA molecule or the order of amino acids in a protein.


Surgical Pathology: A field in anatomic pathology concerned with examination of tissues removed from living patients for the purpose of diagnosis of disease and guidance in the care of patients.


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Urinalysis: noninvasive test which involves the chemical and microscopic analysis of urine for diagnostic purposes. Urinalysis can assist the physician in the diagnosis of infections, diabetes, dehydration, nephritis, kidney stone, jaundice and many other conditions.


Urology: a branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the urinary tract and urogenital system; the study and treatment of disorders of the urinary tract in women and the urogenital system in men.


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