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Outside the Lab Profession, Pathologists’ assistants, Clinical care

The Pathologist–PA Team

For a long time, pathologists’ assistants (PAs) have worked silently and diligently (and often unrecognized) in hospitals across the world. Their work represents an important link in the chain of duties required of a good pathology service. PAs in our institutions perform gross examinations, including complete description, mapping, evaluation/inking of margins, and sectioning of surgical pathology specimens, as well as processing all cytology samples. In addition, they are always ready to learn new techniques that give added value to their profession.

It's the PA’s intimate knowledge of the requirements for each potential procedure that allow optimal sample management.

At the moment, our institutions are focused on a new professional activity for pathologists: interventional pathology techniques. These activities are important because they improve diagnostic and economic efficiency (1,2,3), shortening the time to diagnosis for the patient. Interventional pathologists do not limit themselves to waiting behind the microscope for samples, but perform the procedures to obtain cells, ensure sufficient representative samples, and optimize management of the material obtained (4). And because interventional pathologists make real-time decisions, it’s the PA’s intimate knowledge of the requirements for each potential procedure that allow optimal sample management. And, if another sample is required, it’s the PA who prepares for complementary techniques, such as ultrasound-guided core needle biopsy, and assists the pathologist in performing them.

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About the Authors

Karen Villar Zarra

Hospital Universitario del Henares, Madrid, Spain.


Maria del Mar Olmo Fernandez

Hospital Universitario del Henares, Madrid, Spain.


Santiago Nieto Llanos

Hospital Universitario del Henares, Madrid, Spain.


Hector Enrique Torres Rivas

Hospital Universitario Central de Asturias, Asturias, Spain.


Luis Manuel Fernandez Fernandez

Hospital Universitario Central de Asturias, Asturias, Spain.


Carla Macleod Beltran

CBM Pathology, Washington, DC, USA.

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