Chemical Pathology

Chemical Pathology deals with the entire range of disease. It encompasses detecting changes in a wide range of substances in blood and body fluids (electrolytes, enzymes and proteins) in association with many diseases. In addition, it involves detecting and measuring tumour (cancer) markers, hormones, poisons and both therapeutic and illicit drugs. For example Chemical Pathologists are involved in assessing levels of iron in the blood, measuring the levels of enzymes that are released into the blood after a heart attack to help in the diagnosis, and in the measurement of certain proteins produced by cancers to monitor the response to their treatment.

As with the other clinical pathology specialities, the largest part of a Chemical Pathologist's day is typically spent in clinical liaison. This involves advising clinicians about the appropriate tests for the investigation of a particular clinical problem, the interpretation of results and follow-up, and the effect of interferences eg by therapeutic drugs on test results. The working day also has a large component devoted to the validation and interpretation of test results, particularly for unusually abnormal results or more uncommon and highly specialised tests.

Evaluation of new technology and the development of new tests is an ongoing process in Chemical Pathology. This applies particularly to areas that are now opening up, such as the use of molecular biology techniques in diagnostic tests. Specialist areas of interest include such topics as inherited metabolic diseases, trace metals and environmental monitoring, drugs of abuse, and nutrition.