A pathologist is a medical doctor who is specialized in the study and diagnosis of the changes that are produced in the body by various diseases. A neuropathologist is a specialized pathologist who is concerned with diseases of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). Often a neuropathologist is concerned with the diagnosis of brain tumors.
A neuropathologist is also an expert in the various aspects of diseases of the nervous system and skeletal muscles. This range of disease includes degenerative diseases, infections, metabolic disorders, immunologic disorders, disorders of blood vessels, and physical injury. A neuropathologist functions as the primary consultant to neurologists and neurosurgeons.
A neuropathologist is a medical doctor who has pursued specialized training. Aspects of this training include neurology, anatomy, cell biology, and biochemistry. Typically, a patient will not see a neuropathologist. Rather, the specialist works in the background, in the setting of the laboratory, to assist in the patient's diagnosis. In the path that leads to the diagnosis of a tumor, disease, or other malady, a neuropathologist typically becomes involved at the request of a neurologist . It is the neurologist who suspects a problem or seeks to confirm the presence of a tumor, based on tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computed assisted tomography (CAT) scan. The neurologist can obtain some of the tissue of concern in a procedure known as a biopsy , as well as obtaining fluid or cell samples.
It is this material that is sent to the pathology lab where the neuropathologist seeks to identify the nature of the problem. The diagnosis of brain and spinal cord related damage often involves a visual look at the samples using the extremely high magnification of the electron microscope. The neuropathologist can assess from the appearance of the sample whether the sample is unaffected or damaged. For example, in brain tissue obtained from a patient with suspected Alzheimer disease , the neuropathologist will look for evidence of the presence of amyloid plaques, which are caused by abnormal folding of protein. As well, the neuropathologist will look for other diagnostic signs that support or do not support the suspected malady.
In the case of a tumor, part of a neuropathologist's responsibility is to identify the tumor and grade it as malignant or benign. This is no small task, as there are literally hundreds of different types of tumors. The correct identification greatly aids the subsequent treatment process and the patient's prognosis.
The neuropathological analysis of a tumor is concerned mainly with two areas. The first is the origin of the tumor in the brain. Determining the tumor's origin aids in naming the tumor. Secondly, the neuropathologist determines if the tumor displays signs of rapid growth. The speed of growth of the tumor can be quantified as a grade. A result such as "grade three astrocytoma" is very informative to the neurologist. Even if the neuropathologist determines that a brain or spinal cord tumor is benign, the location of the tumor may still pose serious health risks, and this important determination is also usually made by the neuropathologist.
Another important tool that a neuropathologist uses to examine tissue samples is histology. The treatment of a thin section of a sample with specific compounds that will bind to and highlight (stain) regions of interest in the specimen allows the neuropathologist to determine if the stained regions are normal or abnormal in character. The histological stains can be applied to a section that has been sliced from the sample at room temperature or at a very low temperature. The use of frozen sections can help preserve structural detail in the specimen that might otherwise be changed at a higher temperature.
The assessment of a stained specimen by the neuropathologist is typically done by examining the material using a light microscope. This type of microscope does not magnify the specimen nearly as much as does the electron microscope. But such high-power magnification is not necessary to detect the cellular changes in the stained specimen. By carefully selecting the stain regimen, a skilled neuropathologist can reveal much detail about a specimen. Histological examinations can also be done much more quickly and easily than electron microscopic examinations. Saving time can be important in diagnosis and treatment, especially when dealing with brain tumors.
Finally, one of the consultative duties of a neuropathologist can also include legal testimony. Their expert knowledge can be useful in court cases in which the mental state or functional ability of a person is an important consideration.
Brian Douglas Hoyle, PhD
"Neuropathologist." Gale Encyclopedia of Neurological Disorders. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 23, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/neuropathologist
"Neuropathologist." Gale Encyclopedia of Neurological Disorders. . Retrieved February 23, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/neuropathologist
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.