Labwork: What You Need to Know
Lab work is a group of lab tests meant for getting information about one's health via a sample of blood, urine, feces, or body tissue, among others. Lab and blood tests are crucial in diagnosing, monitoring, and treating various ailments. They can even help in diagnosing diseases before their symptoms arise. The sampling process is quick and easy, and patients typically get their results within one week, depending on the complexity of the tests ordered. Lab work is an essential facet of the medical field and continues to save patients' lives.
What is a Lab Work.
Lab work is a set of lab tests, or laboratory tests, used in analyzing bodily fluids, feces, and body tissue, among others. These tests help a healthcare provider gain insight into a patient's health and conditions. In addition, they can detect underlying diseases and ailments before any signs of symptoms. Other types of lab work can aid in monitoring a disorder to determine if treatment has been effective. With thousands of lab tests available, the possible applications for these tests are seemingly endless.
What are the Different Types of Lab Tests.
There are hundreds of different lab tests, and their applications are seemingly endless. However, there are several standard tests, and they include:
Complete Blood Count.
Also known as a CBC test, this is the most widely performed blood test in North America. The complete blood count test quantifies the number of red and white blood cells and platelets in the blood. This data helps assess a patient's overall health and can suggest some insights on aspects of nutritional status.
Basic/Comprehensive Metabolic Panel.
The variations in electrolyte and blood sugar levels are beneficial for measuring the body's sugars, minerals, and nutrients. The basic metabolic panel is the most accurate test to measure such variations. The basic metabolic panel can also detect kidney and liver problems before symptoms occur. Fasting for 12 hours may be required before taking this test.
The lipid panel is a combination of tests used to determine the risk of cardiovascular disease by measuring cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Cardiovascular diseases are problems that affect the heart, such as heart attack, heart disease, and heart valve disease. At Index Health, we also make sure to screen with more advanced vascular markers, such as ApoB, hsCRP, myeloperoxidase, ADMA and SDMA, as well as HDL function.
The most common diabetes test, the hemoglobin A1C, measures blood sugar levels for three months. If the blood sugar levels remain high throughout the duration, this can be indicative of a glucose/insulin problem..
Insulin resistance panel.
This panel is helpful to understand if a person is on a pathway towards insulin resistance, and perhaps, diabetes. This panel screens for fasting insulin levels, c-peptide levels, and calculates an insulin resistance score. If the results are suboptimal, our team assists to put you on a plan to reverse those early changes, planning on how to get you off the train towards diabetes.
Urinalysis is generally the first test performed because it is a quick and accurate screening test that checks for otherwise unnoticed signs of disease. Urinalysis also aids in monitoring diabetes and kidney disease.
Bacterial infections are difficult to detect without a bacterial culture test. By understanding the type of bacterial infection, physicians can then select the most efficient and effective therapy.
How to Prepare for a Lab Test.
For a majority of laboratory tests, there is no preparation necessary. However, for those tests that do require prep, it usually entails fasting. Concerning labwork, fasting means abstaining from all foods and drinks -- except for water -- for up to 12-hours before testing. Patients must fast because foods and drinks contain ingredients that can interfere with the test results when absorbed into the bloodstream.
Several other test preparations are typical, and they include avoiding:
- caffeinated beverages and alcohol
- overeating before fasting or testing
- tobacco product use
- strenuous activity
You must let the health care provider know if you are taking medication or supplements, whether they are over-the-counter or prescribed medications.
What Factors Affect the Test Results.
Numerous factors can affect your labwork results, some of which you can control and others can't. One aspect you can control is following the preparatory instructions put in place by your healthcare provider. For instance, when asked to fast for 12-hours or abstain from tobacco products, you must follow these instructions closely. If disregarded, it could compromise the test results, and then you'll have to go in for a retest.
Several factors are not controllable. However, they could affect your test results, and they include:
- medical history
- overall health
- specific foods
- medications you are taking
There is a factor separate from the rest that will affect the results of your test: laboratory testing techniques and variations. Since there is no standardized method for analyzing the samples, this is important because the results from each test could vary.
What Happens During the Test.
The entire testing process usually takes under 15 minutes. If you are taking a blood test, a trained phlebotomist will take a blood sample using venipuncture. This method for drawing blood is prevalent and involves inserting a needle into a vein inside the elbow, similar to the technique used when donating blood. If a different type of specimen is required, you will receive instructions regarding the next step you need to take.
When Do I Get the Results.
In most cases, the test results will be available within one week of testing. However, some specific tests do take longer. The test results go directly to your healthcare team, who will discuss them with you. In addition, they will go over the next steps in your treatment plan and address any concerns or questions you may have.
LabWork: A Service of the Future.
It's undeniable that lab work and tests have helped shape the medical industry. Although many of these tests have existed for decades, they remain the most efficient means of diagnosing, monitoring, and treating illnesses. For example, if it weren't for tests like the hemoglobin A1C or the basic metabolic panel, it would take much more time to recognize diabetes and kidney disease complications.
Furthermore, tests such as the blood clotting test are vital during emergencies due to the rapidity of the diagnosis, drastically reducing blood clot detection times; a few extra seconds can save a patient's life during an emergency. As technologies improve, so will testing and analysis methods. In time, we'll be able to detect health issues that we never dreamed possible. Indeed, the future of lab work looks bright. So if your goal is to live healthier, contact a health care provider today and get your labs scheduled.