TESTING TIMES: Sue Wigginton, medical scientist at Pathology Queensland, says pathology is a critical service.
TESTING TIMES: Sue Wigginton, medical scientist at Pathology Queensland, says pathology is a critical service. Allan Reinikka Rokapathology

Pathology is an unseen service that is vital at hospital

IN ONE end of the office sits a fridge full of blood bags; in the other, agar plates covered in bacteria - including one that is flesh-eating.

That only begins to scratch the surface of what can be found in the pathology lab at the Rockhampton Hospital, where medical scientist Sue Wigginton has worked for 16 years.

In between the microscopes and the blood and tissue samples, the pathology lab plays a vital role for the hospital.

Sue said about 70% of all diagnoses doctors make are based on pathology tests.

For International Pathology Day, on November 18, the lab opened its doors for tours to show people what goes on behind the scenes in one of the hospital's most important services.

"It's a critical service, but it's an unseen service," Sue said.

"Pathology tests are happening in the background and the doctor is using them to help diagnose the patient and help them with treatment options."

While the bulk of their work is routine, it also varies wildly.

They could be analysing a blood sample to determine whether a sick patient has leukaemia, identifying what antibiotics will work to treat an infection or matching blood types to make sure a trauma patient is given the right blood type ahead of surgery.

Sue said pathology really helps to confirm diagnoses and also pick up on things that aren't easy to see externally.

Blood types

AB is the rarest blood type, found in only 3% of the population, but is in high demand because it can be given to anyone.

A is found in 38% of the population

B is found in 10% of people and can make a big difference to trauma victims, people with severe burns or patients with blood diseases

O- is the universal blood type which can be given to any patient, and is also vital for cancer patients. It is found in 9% of people

O+ is the most common blood type

Source: Australian Red Cross Blood Service



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