College of American Pathologists

  Anatomic Pathology Scope
  of Practice




Policy Synopsis

Definition, scope, and nature of pathology and its practitioners.


Anatomic pathology is a branch of the medical specialty of pathology that principally focuses on the diagnosis of human disease through the examination of cells, fluids, and tissues, using appropriate technologies. Permanent reports of these examinations, which constitute an integral part of the medical record, are provided to physicians, other health care professionals and, where appropriate, to patients.

Anatomic pathology is a broad, dynamic discipline that continually changes as medicine itself changes. For example, areas of emerging importance within the field of anatomic pathology include molecular diagnostics, proteomics, molecular genetics, forensic identification and image analysis. In addition to diagnostic activities, anatomic pathology practice includes performing procedures on living patients (e.g., fine needle aspiration) as well as performing and documenting post mortem examinations, including forensic post mortem examinations.

The scope of anatomic pathology practice includes important roles in other areas in medicine such as assisting clinicians in the management of patients (e.g., participation in multidisciplinary patient care conferences such as tumor boards), and in institutionally-defined medical staff activities (e.g., patient oversight committees, education, administration and management) Other activities include supervising and training health care personnel in anatomic pathology, managing facilities that provide tissue or cellular products to individual patients or researchers (e.g., tissue banks), and conducting research dealing with tissue analysis and disease pathophysiology.

An anatomic pathologist is a physician who is qualified by virtue of education, specialized training and experience to practice anatomic pathology. Certification by the American Board of Pathology in anatomic pathology demonstrates the capability of a pathologist to practice within any subspecialty of anatomic pathology. Certification by the American Board of Pathology in a subspecialty of pathology demonstrates additional training and experience in that subspecialty. The College of American Pathologists endorses the American Board of Pathology position that maintaining general and subspecialty competence after completion of the certification process requires continuing medical education and practice expertise.

Revision History

Adopted May 2001