Pathology is not just about testing and diagnosis; it is also at the forefront of medical research with many of the major advances in clinical and surgical practice made as a result of work carried out by pathologists.
Major advances have been made in understanding disease and developing treatments: ensuring safe blood transfusion, developing vaccines against major infections, managing the immune system for successful organ transplants, and pinpointing the genetic causes of disease.
Examples of recent advances
- By showing that involved margins in bowel cancer correlated with poor survival, a change in surgical technique across the world has improved survival at 5 years from 40% to 65–70%.
- The development of point-of-care testing has given patients the convenience of rapid monitoring of their condition without the need to attend hospital.
- Haemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn was once a devastating disease affecting fetuses of Rhesus-negative women. Thanks to the development of blood typing tests and effective maternal treatments, the past 30 years has seen its virtual eradication.
- The firm belief until the 1980s was that bacteria could not survive in the acid environment of the stomach. The persistence of one pathologist to confirm the presence of bacteria in gastric biopsies, led to the identification of Helicobacter pylori and a cure and prevention for peptic ulcers with the simple introduction of antibiotics.