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Top Ten Things You Should Know About Lab Tests

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April 24, 2016

In recognition of Medical Laboratory Professionals Week (April 24-30, 2016), we asked several lab professionals to list key facts that they think are important for patients and their healthcare practitioners to know about laboratory tests. Here are the top ten:

  1. Highly trained individuals perform lab testing. (Read Who's Who in the Lab: A Look at Laboratory Professionals)
  2. Lab tests can recognize many diseases that are difficult or impossible to diagnose without them. They can be used to screen for, diagnose, and/or monitor many different conditions.
  3. Lab tests help healthcare practitioners make decisions. They should be interpreted in context of a person's signs and symptoms, medical and family history, and other types of testing that he or she has had done. (Read Making Informed Decisions for Better Health)
  4. Often, more than one test is needed to make a diagnosis and sometimes different methods are used to confirm a result.
  5. Even the best lab tests have variability; there is no perfect test. (Read How Reliable is Laboratory Testing?)
  6. Lab test results may vary if you get your tests run at different labs. Why? Not all methods are the same. Different labs use different methods, which may give different results. In fact, normal reference intervals vary from lab to lab. You should never compare results done at two different labs without comparing reference intervals. (Read Reference Ranges and What They Mean)
  7. Lots of things can interfere with a test result. Lab professionals have the expertise to help healthcare practitioners interpret test results. In fact, lab tests can be affected by what the person being tested is eating or drinking, medications and supplements he or she is taking, and even how the sample is obtained or handled. (Read Test Preparation: Your Role)
  8. There are many types of labs and settings where lab tests can be performed, from a large reference lab to a hospital lab, inside a healthcare practitioner's office, at a patient's bedside, to your own home. (Read Where Lab Tests Are Performed)
  9. Some specialized tests are created in individual labs, called laboratory-developed tests. (Read Laboratory-developed Tests (LDTs))
  10. If you do not hear back from your healthcare practitioner about the results of a test you had performed, do not assume that the test was okay. Contact your provider or the lab that did the testing to obtain your results.

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