If you've ever had
to give a tube of blood or a little cup of urine in your
doctor's office, you've had a laboratory test. Laboratory tests
check a sample of your blood, urine or body tissues. A
technician or your doctor analyzes the test samples to see if
your results fall within the normal range. The tests use a range
because what is normal differs from person to person. Many
factors affect test results. These include:
Your doctor may also
compare your results to results from previous tests. Laboratory
tests are often part of a routine checkup to look for changes in
your health. They also help doctors diagnose medical conditions,
plan or evaluate treatments, and monitor diseases.
Like many areas in
medicine, clinical lab testing often provides few simple answers
to commonly asked questions. The issues - on topics like
insurance reimbursement and reference ranges - can be very
complex. While we can't offer the kinds of short, easy answers
that we seem to be accustomed to in this information age, we
have attempted in the following articles to break down the
issues in a way that will help you to understand the issues a
bit better and perhaps to ask the appropriate questions of your
Deciphering Your Lab
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.
Evidence-Based Approach to Medicine Improves Patient Care
Medical knowledge is accumulating—and changing—with such
dizzying speed that the medical community has found it needs new
methods to cope with it all. Evidence-based medicine (EBM) is a
formalized system for helping health professionals cope with
this information explosion. This article explains what EBM is
and the role of laboratory testing in its application.
How Reliable is Laboratozy Testing?
Laboratory tests drive a large part of the clinical
decisions our doctors make about our health, from diagnosis
through therapy and prognosis. Given the crucial role that test
data play in medical decision-making, we prepared this article
to help you understand the key concepts and practices that are
involved in making laboratory tests reliable.
Universe of Genetic Testing
An increasing number of genetic
tests are becoming available as a result of recent and rapid
advances in biomedical research. It has been said that genetic
testing may revolutionize the way many diseases are
diagnosed. But genetic testing does not just help a physician
diagnose disease. This article discusses genetic testing and the
different reasons genetic tests are performed.
Pharmacogenomics is the study of how drugs are metabolized in
the body and the variations in the genes that produce the
metabolizing enzymes. It offers doctors the opportunity to
individualize drug therapy for patients based on their genetic
make-up. This article provides specific examples of currently
available tests in this category and describes some of the
benefits and concerns with this area of laboratory testing.
Clinical Laboratory Tests Get to Market
As technology enables more rapid advancement in the laboratory
sciences and as headlines tout the latest research,
understanding how a test gets to market may help you to put such
news into its appropriate context. We have prepared this article
to help guide you through the process for a lab test to proceed
from conception to market uptake.
As health care consumers continue to seek more convenience,
particularly among chronic sufferers and the elderly, the home
testing market is growing rapidly. Here's a glimpse at the
market and the opportunities as well as the trade offs.
Collecting Samples for Testing
Today, laboratory technologies allow testing on a wide variety
of samples collected from the human body, beyond just blood and
urine. This article provides examples of samples that can be
obtained as the body naturally eliminates them, those that are
quick and easy to acquire since they reside in the body’s
orifices, and some that require minor surgery and anesthesia to
with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety
Nobody particularly enjoys having their blood drawn or providing
a urine or stool sample, but a medical test conducted on a small
sample collected from your body can give your doctor information
that can help save or improve the quality of your life. This
series of articles has some tips on how to approach the
experience with less stress. Other titles in the series include
Tips on Blood Testing, Tips for Children, and Tips for the
Staying Healthy in an Era of Patient Responsibility
As health care consumers have
been given more responsibility for their care, more attention
has been given to the value of preventive medicine. This article
discusses how you can take an active role in your health care
before you get sick, offering general suggestions as
well as more detail on the role of screening tests.
Preparation: Your Role
One of the most important factors in determining the accuracy
and reliability of your laboratory test is you, the patient.
This brief article explains your role in the process and ways in
which you may need to prepare for your lab tests.
Labs use a variety of methods to test the numerous analytes that
are of interest to the medical community. Understanding the
method used for a test provides a broader context for
understanding your test results. This article provides brief
explanations of several common laboratory methods mentioned on