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For many people, clinical laboratory testing is an invisible side of medical care. Yet many of the decisions your health care provider makes about your health status – obtaining a diagnosis, developing a course of action for treatment, or monitoring your body's response to therapy – are based on laboratory data. Your provider trusts the results coming from the lab. That trust is well placed. Clinical laboratory testing is held to very high standards.
Collecting Samples for Testing
Today’s technologies allow testing on an impressively wide variety of samples collected from the human body. Most often, all that is required is a blood sample. However, samples of urine, saliva, sputum, feces, semen, and other bodily fluids and tissues also can be tested.
Some samples can be obtained as the body naturally eliminates them. Others are quick and easy to acquire because they reside in the body’s orifices. For some, minor surgery and anesthesia give the physician access to the required sample.
Our laboratory and reference laboratory use a variety of methodologies to test the countless analytes that are of interest to our medical community. Understanding the method used for a test provides a broader context for understanding your test results.
Laboratory methods are based on established scientific principles involving biology, chemistry, and physics, and encompass all aspects of the clinical laboratory from testing the amount of cholesterol in your blood to analyzing your DNA to growing microscopic organisms that may be causing an infection. Such methods are much like the recipes in a cookbook, defining the procedures or processes that are used to test biological samples for particular analytes or substances. The laboratory scientist follows step-by-step procedures until the end product, a test result, is achieved.
Deciphering Your Lab Report
If you’ve had laboratory tests performed, you may have been given a copy of the report by the lab or your health care provider. Once you get your report, however, it may not be easy for you to read or understand, leaving you with more questions than answers. This article points out some of the different sections that may be found on a typical lab report, explains some of the information that may be found in those sections, and shows you an example of what a lab report may look like.
Reference Ranges and What They Mean
Test results are usually interpreted based on their relation to a reference range. This article will help to explain what a reference range is and why test results and references ranges should not be interpreted in a vacuum.
For more information on laboratory testing here are a few of our accrediting agencies: