Monday, 30 July 2012

They Took My Blood - Now What?

Going for a blood test after seeing a physician is a very common practice. They can do a plethora of tests on a small blood sample that can help determine the course of treatment, monitor treatment and determine if there is an infection or disease present.  These important tests can change a diagnosis But for most people, the testing process is a mystery once the blood leaves their arm.

Once a sample is taken, it will be labelled with a patient's information (Name, Birthdate, Hospital/Patient ID as well as the phlebotomist's initials to verify the sample) before being sent off to the lab for testing. Depending on where your sample was taken, it may be tested in the sample building or sent to a larger lab.

When the sample is received at the lab, it will first be assigned a barcode which will be easier to use for tracking. The barcode is placed on the tube of blood as well as on the results sheet to insure the sample is properly labelled.

A sample of Barcodes used by the LIS

The sample will then either be inverted multiple times before being placed on the machine or being put on the centrifuge. With technology changing continuously, it is great that a standard has been established using Vacutainers to collect samples. In many cases, the Technologist is able to put the sample directly on the machine for testing rather than having to pipette and aliquot different amounts.

The sample is programmed into the machine to designate what competent of the blood will be tested. Depending on the machine and component being looked at, testing can be as quick as 10 minutes or a long as a days. The results will be printed out and then entered into the LIS (Laboratory Information System) to be sent back to the Physician. If the results fall into an "Urgent" range, the lab will contact the physician immediately by a phone call so treatment can begin quickly.

You are probably wondering how you can be guaranteed your results are accurate when the components being tested are so miniscule. Quality control testing is run every day, multiple times a day to insure they are within testing limits. The limits are very strict and any type of results from the QC that fall outside the ranges are taken seriously and can mean results will be marked "Pending" to be investigated further.

The next time you get your blood tested, you can know the amount of time and work put in to testing and feel confident about the level of accuracy from the lab!



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