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Where Lab Tests Are Performed

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In a Hospital Laboratory

Almost all hospitals contain a laboratory, which is usually proportionate in size to the population it serves. Busy hospitals may process hundreds of samples in just one shift. Tests that are performed include those needed in emergency situations, such as markers for heart attack like troponin, tests where results are needed rapidly for patient care like stat testing, and other tests done in high volume, such as electrolytes. Hospital labs are generally used by all of hospital inpatients and by many outpatients who are being seen by hospital-affiliated physicians, such as at hospital-affiliated clinics and physician offices. However, you may never actually visit the hospital's laboratory unless you are sent there for your sample collection.

Hospital labs may be segmented by type of testing and staffed by personnel trained in particular specialties. For example, there may be sections that focus on microbiology, hematology, chemistry, and blood banking. Other units may perform highly specialized tests using electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry, and still others can focus on surgical pathology, cytology, and autopsy, which are all associated with the analysis of cell and tissue structure. Some types of tests are sent to reference laboratories (see next page), which are more specialized, especially if the demand for them is low within the hospital.

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