Monday, April 15, 2013

Ask Us Anything: What Do I Need to Know About Blood Testing?

"What is the best way to prepare for getting blood work done? What do I need to know about blood testing?"

Beth Nicastro, Corporate Nurse Educator, Responds:

 Hello and thanks for the question!

Blood tests help doctors check for certain diseases and conditions. They also check your organ function and how well treatments are working.

Specifically, blood tests can help providers:
  • Evaluate how well organs, such as the kidneys and heart, are working
  • Diagnose diseases and conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and coronary heart disease
  • Determine whether you have risk factors for heart disease
  • Check whether medicines you're taking are working
  • Assess how well your blood is clotting

Blood tests are commonly ordered. When you have routine checkups, your doctor may recommend blood tests to see how your body is working. The physician may also order labwork when you are not feeling well.

Many blood tests don't require any special preparation. However, you may need to fast (not eat any food) for 8 to 12 hours before some tests. Your doctor will let you know how to prepare for bloodwork and if a prescription is required.

To draw blood, a band is put around your arm. This helps your veins to become large. Your arm is cleansed with a product to kill germs and a small needle is used to draw blood. The blood travels through the needle and into a tube. A finger prick also might be used. The procedure usually is quick and easy, although it may cause some short-term discomfort. Most people don't have serious reactions to having their blood drawn.

Laboratory workers draw the blood and analyze it. They use either whole blood to count blood cells, or they separate the blood cells from the fluid that contains them. This fluid is called serum.

It is best to make an appointment with the lab for your blood work. Some labs may allow you to drop-in, but you will need to confirm their procedure.

Catholic Health lab testing is performed locally and most physicians receive Catholic Health lab results electronically or by autofax. For more information, please contact us.

– Beth Nicastro

Beth Nicastro, PNP-BC, is a women's health community coordinator/educator. She also sees patients as a nurse practitioner at East Aurora Pediatrics.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

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