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In many English speaking countries neuropathology is considered a subfield of anatomical pathology. In contrast, there are a number of independent university chairs in neuropathology and even institutes of neuropathology in German speaking countries due to a different historical background. A physician who specializes in neuropathology, usually by completing a fellowship after a residency in anatomical or general pathology, is called a neuropathologist. In day-to-day clinical practice, a neuropathologist is a consultant for other physicians. If a disease of the nervous system is suspected, and the diagnosis cannot be made by less invasive methods, a biopsy of nervous tissue is taken and sent to the neuropathologist, who examines it using a microscope or certain molecular methods to make a definitive diagnosis.
Training in the US System
Neuropathologists are physicians with either MD or DO medical school degrees. They must finish either 2 or 3 years of an anatomical pathology residency followed by 2 years of a neuropathology fellowship and be certified by the American Board of Pathology in both anatomical and neuropathology. It is also quite common for neuropathologists to have PhDs in a related field.
Training in the UK System
Neuropathologists are medically qualified practitioners who are registered with the General Medical Council in the UK. A postgraduate qualification in neuropathology is obtained through training and an examination overseen by the Royal College of Pathologists UK. A neuropathologist has training in anatomic pathology followed by training in relation to diagnosis of diseases of the nervous system and muscle. A specialist examination (called Part2) in neuropathology is run by the Royal College of Pathologists UK.It is also quite common for neuropathologists to have PhDs in a related field.
In addition to examining central nervous system tissue, the neuropathologist usually is assigned the task of examining muscle and peripheral nerve biopsies. Muscle biopsies are taken to aid in the diagnosis of muscle diseases (such as polymyositis, mitochondrial myopathy, etc.). Peripheral nerve is assessed to help work up patients with suspected peripheral neuropathies secondary to such conditions as vasculitis and amyloidosis.