The purpose of tests performed related to clinical pathology is to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease or infection. A lot of the work involves examining blood, urine, saliva, and other bodily fluids. However, observation and analysis of data is also a big part of what clinical pathologists do on a daily basis. While it may seem like a field of science that’s fairly routine, the answers provided with the various tests that can be performed to detect foreign invaders and track disease or infection trends has the potential to help save lives.
One of the key purposes of any of the 19 different pathology specialties is to detect diseases. With most diseases, especially various forms of cancer, progressive conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes, and any disease that’s considered contagious in nature, early detection and medical intervention is critical. Results from clinical pathology tests can also help with disease management in the following ways:
- Recognizing disease patterns within specific geographic areas
- Tracking the progression of certain diseases by population segments
- Helping researchers determine how to minimize or prevent outbreaks
- Identifying why certain treatments haven’t been effective
- Providing information that can be used to prepare more effective vaccinations
Improving Patient Diagnosis and Treatment
Many of the various forms of bacteria, viruses, and different types of fungus that can cause human illness produce symptoms that are similar to various conditions. Even when a physician suspects that a certain condition is what’s causing a patient’s symptoms, treatment will depend on the source of the infection. Infections causing pneumonia or meningitis, for instance, can be bacterial or viral. Antibiotics won’t work on viruses, so knowing the source is important so the appropriate treatment can be recommended.
Determining Patient Responses to Treatments
With pharmacogenomic tests, clinical pathologists are able to use genetic information to determine how a patient will likely react to certain medications. Such information can help doctors determine if a medication will likely be an effective treatment for a patient and whether or not there could be potentially serious side effects associated with a certain drug. Some clinical pathology labs also offer monitoring services that can help doctors track patients’ responses to various medications.
The ability of clinical pathology labs to deliver most results faster today thanks to advances in technology also has a positive impact on patients’ lives. Being able to access accurate results quickly means doctors can prescribe the right treatment and avoid the over-use of antibiotics and other medications. Results can also be used to track patient progress, identify signs of potential misuse or abuse of certain medications, especially opiates, and determine if a change in treatment is necessary.