Histopathology / Cellular pathology

Histopathology specialises in diagnosing disease using samples of tissue which are looked at with a microscope.

Tissue samples received in the laboratory are obtained in a variety of ways, including organs and tissues removed during surgery, tissue biopsies taken as endoscopy, outpatient clinics or GP surgeries and cytology specimens (body fluids) including cervical smears. Cervical smears are part of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme.

The laboratory processes the tissue. This includes putting the samples in wax blocks and then slicing it into very thin tissue slices (about 3 microns). These are then stained so that the cellular architecture and tissue structure can be examined under a microscope. The findings are details in a report and given to our clinical colleagues. We provide a diagnosis and additional information which is used to plan further treatment or care.

 Specialised staining techniques may be needed for accurate diagnosis. These include:

  • special stains, which can identify changes in cellular architecture such as liver cirrhosis, or micro organisms which as Helicobacter pylori which causes gastritis.
  • immunmohistochemistry, which is a techniques used to recognise different elements of cellular differentiation and is performed increasingly as an aide to cancer diagnosis, such as Her-2 testing in breast cancer.

 Every year the laboratory deals with requests on approximately 12,000 tissue samples, 34,000 cervical screening smears and 2,000 diagnostic cytology samples. Our laboratory provides the cervical cytology screening for the Basingstoke district in addition to our local population.

 The department is also responsible for mortuary services and the undertaking of post mortem examinations, including hospital autopsies and those requested by HM Coroner. For practical advice on the formalities of death and steps to be taken when someone has died please see the Information for bereaved relatives booklet.