Cellular Pathology

Cellular Pathology

The specialist staff in the Directorate of Cellular Pathology provide the clinical opinions on specimens of tissues (biopsies) and cells (cytology) that are taken to make a diagnosis, to guide treatment and to monitor the effects of treatment. Our reports contain the essential information that physicians, surgeons and oncologists use when talking to patients.

We work with clinicians based in the community in Liverpool and in the main Liverpool hospitals and strive to ensure that patients receive a high quality service wherever they are being seen. This involves providing specialised pathological expertise to support many regional and national services, as well as the scientific expertise underpinning the diagnostic process.

Several staff are involved in national organisations, such as the Institute for Biomedical Sciences and the Royal College of Pathologists, contributing to the national pathology governance agenda and laboratory assessment services.

Specialist Clinical Services

The Directorate is based on specialist teams in the following areas:

  • Gastrointestinal Pathology, including diseases of the liver, gallbladder and pancreas
  • Soft Tissue Tumour Pathology, with close links to other specialist teams in North West England
  • Head and Neck Pathology, as an integral part of the regional service at Aintree University Hospital
  • Gynaecological Pathology, working closely with clinicians at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital
  • Cardiothoracic Pathology, working closely with clinicians at the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital
  • Dermatopathology, working with the specialist teams at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospital and Aintree University Hospital
  • Breast Pathology, including provision for the rapid molecular pathology assessment (OSNA) of lymph nodes removed during surgery for breast cancers.
  • Haemato-oncology Diagnostic Service (HODS), working with specialist haematoliogsts across Merseyside and Cheshire
  • Ophthalmic Pathology is a nationally commissioned highly specialised service and forms part of the “National Specialist Ophthalmic Pathology Service” (NSOPS). It provides a diagnostic, molecular diagnostic and prognostic service to the nationally commissioned trust-based Ocular Oncology service and to St Pauls’ Eye Hospital, as well as to other clinicians and pathologists throughout the UK, Europe, and elsewhere.
  • Urological Pathology, as an integral part of the specialist clinical teams treating patients with cancers of the testis, kidneys and bladder

For a comprehensive list of the tests we offer, or for more information, please refer to the relevant Laboratory Handbook.


Histopathology is the diagnostic service that looks at cells of the body within solid tissue specimens. By looking at the way that the cells are arranged, how they have developed and how they are functioning, it is possible to determine if a patient has a particular disease, inflammation, a cancer or a non-cancerous growth.

Cells can be taken from tissues removed during surgical procedures in theatres, outpatient clinics, GP clinics or at post-mortem examination. Very thin slices of the tissue are dyed different colours allowing the cells to be examined under the microscope.

The Histopathology services receives tissue samples from more than 55,000 patients in Liverpool each year, as well as clinical referrals from across Merseyside and Cheshire and part of the North West England.

Findings from a patient’s cellular pathology studies are discussed at multi-disciplinary team meetings with other clinicians, and the team of experts work together to advise on an appropriate treatment plan for discussion with the patient or to review how a treatment is progressing. Cellular pathology is essential to delivering cancer services within the Trusts.

Most of our work is associated with specific clinical services delivered in the Hospital Trusts with which we work, principally the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital, Aintree University Hospital, Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital and the Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

For a comprehensive list of the tests we offer, or for more information, please refer to the relevant Laboratory Handbook.

Molecular Pathology

Immunocytochemistry (ICC)

ICC is a technique for identifying cellular or tissue constituents by means of specific antibody-antigen interactions. Labelled antibodies are used as highly specific reagents for the localization of antigens in cells and tissues. This is a major diagnostic tool in Cellular Pathology proving to be a useful adjunct to routine histological analysis for the investigation and diagnosis of disease. ICC is widely used for diagnostic and prognostic characterization of different tumour types and also plays a role in the field of companion diagnostics.

Our immunocytochemistry service offers an extensive repertoire of primary antibodies and provides support to routine histopathology and cytopathology diagnosis at the Liverpool Clinical Laboratories and also undertakes Her2 testing in breast cancer samples, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) testing in oropharyngeal specimens, detection of Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) mRNA, and EGFR profiling in lung cancer specimens and offers these as a regional service.

Molecular Pathology

The Molecular Pathology service offers a comprehensive test repertoire to support its clinical service activity. The service offers PCR for TCR/IgH gene rearrangement studies in haematological neoplasms and coeliac disease; RT-PCR for gene mutation detection, e.g. EGFR in non-small cell lung cancer and BRAF in ocular melanoma; and Multiplex Ligation Dependant Ligation dependant probe Amplification (MLPA) and micro-satellite instability (MSI) studies for prognostication in ocular oncology. In conjunction with the Immunocytochemistry service, a range of chromogenic in situ hybridization (CISH) and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) protocols are also offered as diagnostic and therapeutic predictive aids for the investigation of breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, lymphoma and oropharyngeal carcinoma specimens.

Specimen requirements for this delivery of this service include fresh frozen or formalin fixed paraffin embedded tissue sections and whole blood samples.

For a comprehensive list of the tests we offer, or for more information, please refer to the relevant Laboratory Handbook.

Mortuary and Bereavement Services

The Mortuary Service is responsible for the care of the deceased who die in hospital, or are brought to hospital after death, and to their families and friends. Mortuary staff have an important role, providing an efficient service whilst responding sensitively to the needs of the bereaved. The Mortuary Service deals with deaths from wards at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and covers the Mortuary at Broadgreen Hospital and death from Liverpool Women’s Hospital, Broadoak Unit (situated at Broadgreen Hospital) and Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital. The mortuaries receive deceased from external sources due to post-mortems ordered by the Coroners and/or Forensic investigations as part of the regional service covering Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales, Cumbria, Southport, Blackpool, Sefton/Knowsley, Whiston and Wirral.

The bereavement service provides comprehensive information, guidance and support for bereaved relatives and friends following the death of a patient at the hospitals. Our service includes the prompt completion of all the necessary paperwork after a death as well as explaining to the bereaved how to register a death, how to find a Funeral Director or arrange a funeral without a Funeral Director. We work very closely with the Liverpool Coroner’s Service, the Liverpool Registration Service and local Funeral Directors to ensure the bereaved have access to all the information and services they require.

Skin camouflage techniques – The recognition of facial features remains central to formal identification procedures and being able to view the deceased is an integral part of the early grieving process. The use of camouflage techniques minimises the adverse emotional impact that unpleasant facial trauma and discoloration can have on those who are required to identify or wish to view the deceased. Our experience indicates that a mortuary skin camouflage service offers a significant benefit to the bereaved, especially when the degree of trauma or discoloration would have made viewing a very distressing experience. The feedback received from the relatives themselves has been very encouraging and given with heartfelt thanks.

For a comprehensive list of the tests we offer, or for more information, please refer to the relevant Laboratory Handbook.