Anatomical Pathology

Anatomical Pathology is the discipline of pathology that deals with the diagnosis of disease through examination of cells and tissues, which requires broad-based knowledge and understanding of the pathological and clinical aspects of many diseases. 

Our pathologists (medical specialists) work closely with clinician colleagues (surgeons, physicians and oncologists) and support numerous multidisciplinary teams throughout the hospital system.  Much of our work focuses on the diagnosis and assessment of cancer but our specialist pathologists also diagnose many benign (non-cancer) conditions such as lung, kidney or liver disease, skin disorders (eg rashes, abnormal hair loss), gynecologic disorders (e.g. causes of abnormal vaginal bleeding), abnormal placentas, and many more. 

Our pathologists are supported by a large team of highly trained laboratory scientists and technicians (who process the cells and tissues in the laboratory and prepare slides for microscopic examination), our service manager, and our dedicated administration team.  Our department provides diagnostic services to the national breast, cervical and bowel screening programs.  As well as performing a large number of specialist stains, and immunohistochemistry testing in our department, we have access to a wide range of specialist testing techniques within other divisions of Canterbury Health Laboratories, including flow cytometry and molecular genetics.  We train registrars (doctors undertaking postgraduate training to become specialist pathologists) and medical laboratory science students, and teach medical students from the University of Otago. 

Anatomical Pathology encompasses:

  • HISTOPATHOLOGY: examination of intact pieces of tissue (biopsies, and larger pieces of tissue removed during surgery)
  • CYTOPATHOLOGY: cells obtained from body fluids such as urine, or by scraping (eg cervical smears, also known as “Pap” smears), or through a very thin needle placed into a lump (“fine needle aspiration”)
  • AUTOPSY PATHOLOGY: two of our pathologists work in conjunction with the National Perinatal Service, performing autopsies (post mortem examinations) on babies who have died before or shortly after birth.  Other autopsies are performed by the forensic pathologists in our service

At Canterbury Health Laboratories, our anatomical pathologists work in specialised teams (which we call “green teams”) with expert knowledge in particular areas of diagnosis.  Please use the side menu to find out more our specialist expertise.