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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. Tests that are performed include those needed in emergency situations (e.g., markers for heart attack such as CK, myoglobin, troponin), tests where results are needed rapidly for patient care (stat testing), and those done in high enough volume to warrant acquisition of the necessary equipment. Hospital labs are generally used by all of the inpatients at the particular hospital and by many outpatients who are being seen by physicians with offices affiliated with the hospital. However, as a patient, 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, 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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