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What is the difference between neuropathology and histopathology?

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 20 August 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:s82
  1. Carl Gray, consultant histopathologist
  1. Harrogate District Hospital, Harrogate


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Neuropathology, one of the subdisciplines of histopathology, is the science and diagnosis of diseases of the nervous system, principally the central nervous system. Neuropathologists work on brain, nerve, eye, and muscle biopsies from living patients and on the whole brain and spinal cord in postmortem examinations. The principal diseases studied include neoplasms, trauma, and neurodegenerative diseases. Newer aspects of the subject include the molecular biology of brain neoplasms and degenerative diseases and prion diseases such as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

Neuropathology uses similar techniques to histopathology, but there is a continuing emphasis on the intraoperative diagnosis of brain neoplasms.

Most neuropathologists start with general senior house officer or specialist registrar histopathology training and subspecialise in neuropathology later on. The exams for membership of the Royal College of Pathologists (MRCPath) can be taken slanted towards neuropathology. Neuropathologists work in multidisciplinary teams, which include neurologists, neuroradiologists, and neurosurgeons, usually in larger teaching hospitals.

To decide on its suitability as a career it would be best to speak with neuropathologists in their laboratories and to see their work in action. There is still the competitive stage of getting into histopathology training—you would need successful entry into histopathology training before specialising in neuropathology.

Best of luck. ■


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