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A pathologist is a medical professional who focuses on the diagnosis and categorization of diseases using microscopic examination of tissue or cells and the interpretation of diagnostic laboratory tests. Pathology reports contain important diagnostic information, and are typically dictated by pathologists and transcribed into written documents for medical record-keeping, communication among healthcare providers, and research. Outsourcing of pathology report transcription is on the rise. Competent pathology transcription service providers can ensure accurate and timely transcription of pathology reports, which are critical for patient care, diagnosis, and treatment planning.
What is A Pathology Report?
A pathology report is a document containing the medical analysis of a body organ, blood sample, or piece of tissue that has been removed from a patient’s body. A pathologist examines the samples and then compiles a report for the healthcare professional. Healthcare professionals use pathology reports to make a diagnosis and develop a treatment strategy for the illness or condition. An accurate pathology report includes:
- Patient name and unique identification number. These could be the patient ID number, Social Security number, or birthdate.
- The case number, to identify the specimen
- The date and nature of the technique used to get the specimen (such as a blood sample, surgery, or biopsy)
- The clinical diagnosis at this time and medical background
- A basic description of the lab specimen that was received
- A thorough account of what the pathologist observes while scrutinizing the specimen under the microscope
- The result of the testing process, or the ultimate diagnosis. The final diagnosis is what the doctor will use to determine the best course of treatment.
- The pathologist’s name and signature, as well as the name and location of the pathology lab
Information available in a Pathology Report
- Identification data: The patient’s name, the hospital-issued medical record number, the date of the biopsy or surgery, and the special specimen number (given in the lab) are all included in the basic identifying information.
- Clinical data: The clinical data in a pathology report will include the following:
- Clinical history: relevant medical history of the patient, including any pre-existing conditions, previous surgeries, and ongoing treatments or medications.
- Clinical findings: the patient’s presenting symptoms, physical examination findings, and results of relevant laboratory tests, imaging studies, or other diagnostic procedures.
- Diagnosis: the pathologist’s interpretation and diagnosis of the specimen or tissue sample, including type of disease or condition, its severity, and any specific characteristics or features observed under microscopic exam.
- Prognostic factors: details may impact the prognosis or outcome of the patient’s condition, such as tumor grade, stage, and other relevant prognostic markers.
- Treatment recommendations: recommendations on further management or treatment based on the pathology findings, such as surgical resection, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other interventions.
- Follow-up advice: recommendations for further monitoring, follow-up visits, or additional tests necessary to evaluate the patient’s response to treatment and overall progress.
- Other relevant clinical data: any other relevant clinical information, such as the referring physician’s name, date of specimen collection, and any additional comments or remarks from the pathologist or other healthcare providers involved in the patient’s care.
Key Sections of the Pathology Report
- Gross description: The gross description details how the specimen looks to the “naked eye”, and describes the portions of the specimen examined under the microscope. It includes the size, color, number of tissue samples, and, when appropriate, weight of the specimen. Larger biopsy or tissue specimens, like those obtained during a mastectomy for breast cancer, will have much longer descriptions that include the size of the entire piece of tissue, the size of the cancer, the distance between the cancer and the nearest surgical margin (edge) of the specimen, the number of lymph nodes discovered in the underarm region, and the appearance of the non-cancer tissue.
- Microscopic description: This is an explanation of what pathologists observe under the microscope. The microscopic description of the material typically includes information about the appearance, arrangement, and degree of the cancer’s invasion of neighboring tissues. The outcomes of any additional research (flow cytometry, histochemical stains, etc.) may be mentioned in the microscopic description or in a different section.
- Diagnosis report: The final diagnosis is the most significant component of the pathology report. Although this section may be at the top or bottom of the page, it represents the “bottom line” of the testing procedure. This final diagnosis is used by the clinician to guide selection of the most appropriate course of treatment. If cancer is the result of the diagnosis, this section will specify the specific type of cancer and typically describe the cancer’s stage.
- Synoptic report: The synoptic report includes a brief table that summarizes all of the case’s key findings. All of this information aids in identifying any additional therapies or testing that may be required as well as in predicting the patient’s long-term prognosis. Information on pathology staging is also included in the synoptic report. Staging information is about the tumor’s stage, its size and if it has spread outside of the organ and where it first appeared. This knowledge influences subsequent medical care in a direct way and aids in prognosis determination.
- Comment section: The pathologist may want to provide additional details for the treating physicians when the definitive diagnosis is reached. The comment box is frequently used to address questions or suggest additional testing.
It’s important to note that the specific clinical data included in a pathology report may vary depending on the type of specimen or tissue sample being examined, the nature of the disease or condition, and the requirements of the healthcare facility or laboratory generating the report.
Efficient documentation solutions are necessary for busy pathologists who handle thousands of specimens annually. The support of an experienced medical transcription can prove invaluable when it comes to accurately transcribing all recordings and results, and producing precise and timely pathology reports.