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Histopathology is the examination of biopsy or excision material taken from a patient to detect and diagnose disease, disease progression or response to treatment.

The Histopathology department at the University Hospital of North Durham receives over 35,000 requests a year.  It serves three acute hospitals and GP's from the County Durham region, as well as samples from dental practices and private healthcare facilities.  The laboratory holds UKAS accreditation for ISO 15189:2012.

 Routine Specimens

All routine specimens for histological examination should be placed as soon as possible into 10% neutral buffered formaldehyde solution (this can be obtained from the Histology Department).  The specimen to fixative volume ratio should be approximately 1:20, therefore specimens should always be sent in an appropriately sized container.  Please note that this ratio may not be achievable for larger specimen types.  Specimens unable to be sent to the laboratory the same day should be left in fixative at room temperature (not in a refrigerator).  Instructions for completing request cards can be found here.  Ice forms can also be used and must be completed in full. 

 Turnaround Times

(a)     For urgent frozen section specimens - results will be telephoned back, usually within 30 minutes of receipt of the specimen within the laboratory (a typewritten report will follow subsequently).

(b)     For formalin fixed specimens turnaround time depends upon several variables including the specimen size and type, time of receipt etc.  These affect fixation and processing schedules.  Please discriminate very carefully any specimen on which an urgent report is required - specimens identified as such have a marked knock-on effect onto ALL of the rest of the laboratory activity and will therefore affect turnaround time for the rest of your biopsies.

The Royal College of Pathologists guidelines state that 90% of diagnostic biopsies should be reported within 7 days, and 90% of all other samples (except those requiring decalcification) reported in 10 days.  The histology department strives to achieve these turn around times.

The above times relate to the interval between the specimen being taken  and the report being signed and verified by the pathologist.

The department participates in UK EQA schemes.


Semen analysis is offered at Bishop Auckland ACU.  An appointment system is in place for infertility samples and post-vasectomy samples, and patients should ring BAGH on 01388 455845 to make an appointment. Instructions for patients can be found here.


'As I was very, very nervous, I must have been the worst patient ever and they were brilliant with me and I can't thank them enough - could you please pass on my sincere thanks.'

Patient, Hysteroscopy Unit, Chester-le-Street Community Hospital