Lab Tests Performed
The chemistry section of the lab is the most highly automated. Here, tests are run for diabetes, metabolic disorders, thyroid, kidney, liver, and heart disease. Medication levels are also routinely performed. For most tests the blood sample is spun in a centrifuge to separate the blood cells from the serum or plasma, which is used to run the tests. Testing includes glucose, electrolytes, cholesterols, and various enzymes.
Microbiology includes the study of both bacteria and viruses. Many tests in microbiology have been traditionally manual procedures. While some tests such as a rapid Strep or influenza screen can be done in 15-20 minutes, some cultures may take several days or even weeks depending on how fast the organisms grow. Some microbes grow well in the body, but not as well on culture media in the lab. In an effort to speed up this process the lab has purchased an automated blood culture system that reads the bottles every ten minutes. This decreases the time of detection for positive cultures. When a bacterial infection is found lab techs are usually able to perform sensitivity testing to tell the physician which drugs will work best to eliminate the infection.
Blood Bank specialists in the VMH lab determine the type of blood to be given to patients, making sure it is the correct type and is free from disease. The newest piece of equipment used in the blood bank is an automated cell washer. The cell washer automatically performs the steps that remove interfering proteins from the blood cells in the cross match and antibody screening procedure, which must be done before a patient can receive a blood transfusion. “These instruments can be costly,” Tricker said, “but are extremely important in helping report timely, accurate results.” The cell washer will reduce hands on time for patient testing and allow the laboratory to learn test results faster so that VMH medical providers can get a head start on the appropriate treatment of the patient.
VMH is currently associated with The Blood Center of Wisconsin. The Blood Center supplies the majority of our blood product needs. VMH and the Blood Center host blood drives in the VMH community rooms four times a year.
The hematology section of the lab is responsible for conducting tests on whole blood and other body fluids. This section is also highly automated. The tests performed include hemoglobin, white blood cell counts, red blood cell counts, and white cell differentials, which tell the medical provider what types of white cells, are present in the patient’s blood. These tests aid medical providers in diagnosing diseases such as leukemia, sickle cell disease, various infections, and anemias.
Urinalysis can reveal diseases that have gone unnoticed because they do not produce striking signs or symptoms. Examples include diabetes and chronic urinary tract infections. The most cost-effective device used to screen urine is a paper or plastic dipstick. This microchemistry system has been available for many years and allows analysis within one minute. The color change occurring on each segment of the strip is read by an instrument, which sends results to the computer.
Immunology in the lab is the study of invading organisms and our responses to them. These invaders include viruses, bacteria, protozoa, or even larger parasites. Immunology testing at VMH includes the tests for Lyme disease, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, HIV, Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and other diseases.
Coagulation is the process of forming a blood clot. Most people think of blood in its liquid state, but its ability to thicken into a blood clot is a vital part of the body’s natural defense. Over twenty different protein factors are required for a blood clot to form at a site of injury. Further chemical interactions are required to dissolve the blood clot as the body heals. Certain blood coagulation disorders increase the risk of developing blood clots in the blood vessels. When a clot forms in blood vessels, it stops the flow of blood. If this occurs in a vital organ such as the heart, lungs or brain, the clot can be fatal. The test D-Dimer is utilized to help detect these clots. The tests Protime and PTT are most often used to monitor the blood thinners used in treating blood clots, after heart attacks, and often after joint surgery.