Musculoskeletal Pathology

Cancers of the musculoskeletal system are fairly rare but includes a very large number of tumour types that may be difficult to distinguish from each other. Many of these tumours involve children and young adults and the treatment consequences are often dramatic. Over the last decades, the surgical and oncologic  treatment has been developed and refined and highly individualised for the different tumour types. As a consequence, the survival and quality of life for these patients have dramatically improved. The diagnosis of these tumours is often very difficult and rests primarily on microscopic and sometimes molecular analyses of tissue samples. Our laboratory, which handles approximately 4,000 cases per year, has a unique expertise in processing and diagnosing preoperative biopsies as well as major surgical resections of such tumours.

The Musculoskeletal Pathology Laboratory that provides a service to University Hospital Birmingham is housed within Birmingham University.  It is one of the two centres in the UK dealing with rare and complex bone tumours.  The laboratory’s main role is to make tissue diagnosis on biopsies of samples taken from patients with suspected bone or soft tissue tumours.  Then, after treatment, a second sample is taken to determine the success of the treatment and what additional treatment may be needed.   With such a specialist service there may be a requirement for external processing and off site reporting for example to cover leave.  The Department has a Faxitron digital X-ray machine to support dissection of bone samples and testing of decalcification end point;  this is  a shared resource with the nearby QE Cellular Pathology Laboratory.

Some routine histopathology is processed for an external hospital.  The work of the laboratory is world renowned, and doctors all over the world often call upon its experience and expertise.  More detail on services offered is found in the link below:

Laboratory Manual - Specimen Collection and Transport to the Laboratory Opens in new window

The Department is regularly assessed by UKAS (next remote assessment visit is set for 08/12/20) and the Department is currently accredited to ISO 15189:2012.   The scope of on site testing at the Musculoskeletal Laboratory is fully reflected in the link to the UKAS 'Schedule of Accreditation' below.

Of note is musculoskeletal FISH testing recently transferred to the nearby Molecular Pathology Department at University Hospitals Birmingham Molecular Pathology QE site (the UKAS reference is  The Department may use staff, equipment and testing capability at the nearby QE Hospital (UKAS reference is and also across other UHB Trust sites such as Birmingham Heartlands Hospital (UKAS reference is  Sharing of laboratory equipment across UHB Pathology services acts as a contingency in the event of equipment downtime.  This approach also provides a wider range of specialist testing to complement the wide range of in house testing detailed in the scope of testing for complex diagnostic Pathology.   Integration of laboratories is set to continue in to 2021 across UHB Pathology.

The Department of Musculoskeletal Pathology is located in premises rented from the University Of Birmingham and is located on the Northern Edge of the Campus. Click here to view map Opens in new window (Location on map: Blue zone, Building B4)

Department of Musculoskeletal Pathology
Robert Aitken Institute of Clinical Research (3rd Floor)
The Medical School
University of Birmingham
Birmingham , B15 2TT

Telephone: +44 (0) 121 414 7641 (Office)

Telephone: +44 (0) 121 415 8766/7 (Laboratory)

A full laboratory service is available from 08:30 until 17:00 hours Monday to Friday.  No out of hours service is available.

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General Information

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Location of Laboratories

Where the laboratories are located and information about the services offered at each laboratory