What Happens to Your Blood?
The registration process is the initial step. Here, we confirm your identity by asking for your Kaiser Permanente identification card and a photo identification card. This is very important so that the proper specimen labels and accordingly the proper tests are performed and reported to the correct patient. A registration process must be performed when you submit the sample to the laboratory, the sample cannot be dropped-off without this process.
It all starts with the collection of a proper blood or other specimen. A doctor, nurse, technician, or phlebotomist will draw your blood. Several tubes of blood may need to be drawn for different types of tests.
Depending on your condition, your doctor may want to obtain urine, a throat swab, or other sample. Follow the directions carefully; the right sample leads to the right answers.
After the sample is collected, the container is always labeled with your name and other information. If you’re bringing a sample to the lab, make sure that it has your name and medical number on it so that we do the proper tests and report them on the right patient.
When the sample gets to the laboratory, it’s logged into the hospital computer. In some cases the liquid portion of blood is separated from the cells to prepare it for testing. It’s then given to the laboratory staff who will perform the testing.
In the Chemistry section of the lab, blood and other body fluids are tested for chemicals, drugs, and substances that indicate disease. Examples of Chemistry tests include cholesterol and other tests for risk of heart disease, glucose to monitor diabetes, digoxin to help the providers give the correct dose of this powerful drug, and thyroxin to monitor the function of the thyroid gland.
The Hematology section of the lab analyzes the amount and function of blood cells and plasma. Examples of Hematology tests include the Complete Blood Count (CBC) that tells the doctor how many cells of each type are in your blood, and the Prothrombin time (PT), used to monitor patients on the drug Coumadin.
The Microbiology section of the lab tests patients for infection with bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Many types of specimen including blood, urine, sputum, stool, and others are tested. An example of a Microbiology test is a urine culture for urinary tract infections.
The Virology laboratory tests for viral infections. Depending on the virus suspected, the laboratory might look for the virus directly, or test your blood to see if your immune system has reacted to a virus. Examples of Virology tests include rapid antigen test for influenza and HIV antibody tests. The Immunology/Molecular Diagnostics laboratory performs a wide variety of complex tests. Some tests are used by your doctor to determine whether your immune system is functioning properly. State-of-the-art analysis of DNA and RNA is used to test for a variety of diseases. Other specialized tests include the ANA, used to screen for autoimmune disease, and Factor V Leiden genotyping for patients with blood clots.
The Blood Bank (Transfusion Services) is a unique laboratory which not only tests patients’ blood types but also provides blood products to patients who need them. It does additional tests to assure the safety of transfused blood.
After the results are done, they’re reviewed and placed in the hospital computer system. For results that indicate the patient may be very ill, the laboratory calls the doctor with the results.
Depending on how long it takes to carry out a particular test, the length of time between the drawing of the blood and when your provider gets the results can vary greatly, from as little as a few minutes to as much as several weeks.
Most laboratory testing is done here, but some specialized testing is sent to other labs which are expert in particular tests.
Using the Results
Once the information is reported, your provider will interpret them based his or her knowledge of you. The test results may help to rule out or diagnose disease, or to do the best possible job of managing a known disease. You should ask your provider to explain your lab results to you, so you can participate in maintaining your health.
Why You & Your Doctor Can Trust Your Results
Before the laboratory offers a test, we make sure it is accurate and reliable. Each test is monitored frequently by running specimens with known results, called ‘controls’. The laboratory also compares the results of every test we do with those of hundreds of labs in nationwide “proficiency testing” programs. Finally, the laboratory is frequently inspected by a variety of agencies that monitor laboratory quality.