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Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: The tube station on the floor always seems to be out of tubes?  How do we get replacements?
Central Distribution is continually receiving tubes from all areas, so they would be a good source to get empty tubes.  It is best, much quicker, to send someone to Central Distribution (2nd Floor, UH) to pick up the tubes, as their tube stations are so busy receiving specimens, they do not have much time to send tubes out.

Q: What type of specimens CANNOT be tubed to the laboratory?
Generally, specimens that are considered one of a kind, and difficult to replace, should not be tubed.  ASPIRIN and PLAVIX cannot be tubed to the laboratory.

Q: I sent two different patient samples, with the same routine tests ordered, to the Chemistry lab, at the same time.  Why do I have results from one patient up to two hours sooner than I have results from the other patient?
The Chemistry lab has a turn around time (time specimen is received in lab until results are reported out) of 95% of routine specimens reported out in < 2 hours.  Two routine specimens may actually be received by the lab at different times.  One of the specimens may continue to clot thereby delaying results.  The specimen might have abnormal test results that require additional testing so it is conceivable that two specimens drawn at the same time may not be reported at the same time.

Q: What is the most common cause for a sputum specimen to be rejected by the Microbiology laboratory?
If the specimen contains > 10 squamous cells / low powered field the specimen will be rejected because it is contaminated with saliva.

Q: My patient needs a CBCPD and a TACRO.  The patient is a difficult draw.  Can I draw one lavender tube for both tests?
The CBCPD will be done by the Hematology laboratory and the TACRO will be performed in the Drug Analysis section of Chemistry.  Since these tests are done by different labs in different rooms, it is best to send two lavender tubes.  If an unusual situation occurs and it is not possible to obtain two lavender tubes, then Hematology and Drug analysis may share the specimen if the tube contains 3 mls of blood.  The TACRO analysis will be performed after the CBCPD so drug results may be delayed up to 24 hours when sharing a specimen.  Generally, for most laboratory testing it is best to send separate tubes of blood for testing performed by different labs.  This will ensure the best turn around time (time from receipt of specimen to reporting of results) and help prevent loss of specimens.

Q: How do the instruments in the laboratories know what tests to run on each specimen?
Bar codes are put on every laboratory specimen detailing the requested tests, time ordered, patient demographics, etc.  The laboratory instruments read the bar codes to know which tests to perform.

Q: I have had problems getting timed specimens drawn by the venipuncture team.  Whom should I contact?
You may page # 8079 (24 hours/day) with venipuncture problems.  This is the pager carried by the venipuncture supervisor.

Q: What is the proper way to label a blood specimen?
The label with the patient’s name, registration number, etc. should be place on the tube as close to the cap as possible and wrapped around smoothly, not flagged.  The laboratories have automation systems that require labels to be readable by bar code scanners so it is more important than ever before to label tubes properly to make the most of these systems.

Q: What is the proper way to send a Clostridium difficile specimen?
The Microbiology laboratory has new transport media for C. difficile specimens.  The transport for Clostridium difficile is an orange capped transport tube labeled “para-pak C&S”.  This container can also be used for culture and for fecal leukocytes.  There is a similar tube, with a green cap, labeled “para-pak-ecofix” which is used for ova and parasite testing on stool specimens.

The stool sample, for C. difficile, should be collected in the new transport media (orange cap) and filled to the line on the container.  Underfilled or overfilled specimens may lead to invalid results.  If the C.difficile, specimen is unacceptable, Microbiology will cancel the order.

See: Specimen Labeling Flyer

Q: How are sensitivities ordered when sending a culture to Microbiology?
Sensitivities are automatically done on appropriate cultures unless the box on the Microbiology requisition (new requisition Dec. 2006) is checked that no sensitivities are required.  The wording on the Microbiology requisitions has changed.