Georgia Dermatology Partners have an in-house, full-service dermatopathology laboratory. Our lab specializes in processing and interpreting skin biopsy specimens. Our highly trained, board-certified dermatopathologist, Dr. Jessica J. Mercer, has many years of experience.
What Is Dermatopathology?
Dermatopathology is a subspecialty of dermatology that studies skin, hair, and nail disease at a microscopic level. In some instances, the dermatologist may elect to remove a skin sample to aid in the diagnosis of a rash or tumor, and the dermatopathologist is the physician who examines the biopsy to make a diagnosis or determine the cause of disease. Dermatopathologists work in close association with dermatologists. In fact, many doctors train in both specialties.
One of the greatest challenges of dermatopathology is the high number of different skin diseases. There are an estimated 1500 different rashes and skin tumors, including variants. Therefore, dermatology and dermatopathology are among the most complex specialties of medicine.
Who Is A Dermatopathologist?
Dermatopathologists are board-certified dermatologists or pathologists who have pursued additional training in the interpretation of skin biopsies. These physicians review the biopsy specimens under the microscope in order to diagnose diseases and tumors of the skin, hair, and nails.
Why Is Dermatopathology An Important Service To Have In A Practice?
An accurate microscopic interpretation of the biopsy is important in the selection of appropriate therapies. Therefore, it is essential that cases are examined by a physician who has special expertise in analyzing skin specimens. Because combining clinical and microscopic information is often important in making a diagnosis, it is a benefit for the dermatopathologist to work closely with the clinical provider.
What Is The Difference Between Dermatology And Dermatopathology?
A dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing skin conditions through physical examinations. A dermatopathologist is also a medical doctor but instead diagnoses conditions by studying skin samples.
- Are trained in the study of skin pathology, which is a subspecialty of both dermatology and pathology.
- Work with dermatologists and primary care providers to treat skin conditions by analyzing skin samples with a microscope and through other means.
- Carefully examine layers of the skin to develop a diagnosis.
- Typically work in a lab setting.
What Does A Dermatopathologist Do?
Because the skin is on the surface of the body, dermatologists are able to recognize and diagnose skin disorders based on appearance, anatomic distribution, or behavior. But these diagnoses are often inconclusive simply because most of the lesion/problem is below the skin surface. That creates the need for the dermatologist to take a biopsy of the area in question. It’s also almost impossible to know where the borders of a lesion are without examining the tissue in question under a microscope.
That biopsy is the domain of the dermatopathologist. The biopsy may reveal the histology of the disease at a cellular or molecule level and may aid in diagnosis. Further testing may be performed on biopsies, including immunofluorescence, immunohistochemistry, electron microscopy, flow cytometry, and molecular-pathologic analysis. All of these tests are performed by a dermatopathologist.
What Are The Benefits Of Having A Dermatopathologist On Staff?
By having Dr. Mercer on our staff at Georgia Dermatology Partners, we are able to work closely with her when it comes to diagnosing the myriad skin, nail and hair conditions that we see in our patients in our four locations. Most dermatology practices take biopsies, but then they must send them to off-site labs for analysis by a dermatopathologist. That can add days, even weeks, to a diagnosis. In the case of a skin cancer such as melanoma, it’s not something to treat at a casual pace. Also, when sending biopsies to an off-site lab, it’s never known exactly who may be examining the sample.
Dr. Mercer is also a dermatologist and understands both the clinical and microscopic aspect of conditions. She has a close working relationship with all the providers at the practice. This adds an increased level of confidence in our diagnoses and in their timeliness. That’s a great thing for our patients.
What Conditions Can A Dermatopathologist Diagnose?
The expertise and training of a dermatopathologist are so important for a simple reason: there are over 1,500 disorders of the skin. These range from everyday rashes to life-threatening skin cancers. Some conditions primarily affect children, while others such as skin cancer are usually found in older adults. From atopic dermatitis to squamous cell carcinomas, from eczema to psoriasis, there are so many conditions that affect our skin it’s difficult for a dermatologist to diagnose all of them. It’s incredibly helpful to have Dr. Mercer, who is trained in taking in all the available information coming in from the dermatologist and then combining it with microscopic observation, to help us arrive at the correct diagnosis and from there develop the best line of treatment moving forward.