Your doctor ordered a blood test and you have some preparation before the actual draw takes place. Blood tests are ordered for a multitude of reasons from monitoring medication levels, organ function, detecting health risk factors, diagnosing diseases and assessing blood clotting.
It’s important to first ask your provider for instructions especially if fasting is needed and the specific time length prior to the test (usually 8-12 hours fasting before the blood draw is required). In most cases, you are able to drink plenty of water during the fasting period. Discuss any medications you are taking. Some substances can alter blood tests that may need to be temporarily stopped before your blood collection.
Make sure you have a lab order, sometimes referred to as a lab requisition. Confirm your name is correctly spelled with first and last name, your birthdate is entered, and any other personal information is clear and accurate on the form.
If you’re unsure about health insurance coverage for the test, contact your carrier to find out. If you do not have insurance or your insurance will not cover the cost, speak with your physician’s office about payment options. Some labs will offer considerable discounts with upfront payment.
A blood test can be stressful and cause anxiety just thinking about the experience. The procedure is usually quick and uneventful with most patients in and out of the draw room in under 10 minutes. Try managing your stress with deep breathing exercises and repeating a relaxing phrase with positive reinforcement. Chatting with the phlebotomist (specialist trained in drawing blood) and the medical staff will help distract you and alleviate anxiety. Your blood pressure is affected by mental stress and can drop significantly causing dizziness, sweating, nausea, and even fainting. Let your phlebotomist know immediately if you feel any of these symptoms or are prone to fainting.
The initial prep in the blood draw room starts with confirming your name and personal information. Next, you and the phlebotomist will have a brief discussion about any health concerns with regards to fainting spells, pain in the arms or hands, vein conditions, latex allergies, and any other issues that may inhibit a successful collection.
If a venipuncture is required, the phlebotomist will start the process by gently pushing on the surface of your arm in the antecubital area (inside bend of your elbow) where most of the larger veins are located. Then he or she will don gloves, tie a tourniquet around the upper arm to increase blood flow and vein size, and ask you to make a fist. Once the vein is clearly identified for the collection site, the area will be cleaned with an alcohol pad and the needle swiftly inserted. Note that the phlebotomist may take some extra time to locate the best vein to draw your blood with the very first stick as quickly and painlessly as possible.
After the blood sample has been collected, the phlebotomist will withdraw the needle, cover the area with a sterile gauze pad and ask you to apply pressure while keeping your arm straight (this avoids undo oozing from the stick site if you bend your arm). Minor bruising and swelling may occur even with these precautions, which is normal, but will dissipate within a few days.
The blood tubes or containers are labeled and sent to the lab for the appropriate testing. Your doctor is the only person that has the ability to discuss lab test results with you. No one else in the lab, medical office, or phlebotomy draw room is allowed to give you results. However, you are welcome to ask about the nature and delivery of the results and how long they will take.
Now that the blood draw procedure is over, check your puncture site to make sure the gauze pad, band aid or covering is adequately secured. If there is a large amount of blood seeping into the area, notify the phlebotomist to reapply another gauze covering and hold pressure. If your test required fasting, you’ll want to bring a snack and a bottle of water to tide you over until you are able to eat a full meal. Sometimes, the staff may store cookies, other snacks, and bottled water if you forgot to bring anything to eat or drink.
Remember to ask questions and be inquisitive during the entire blood draw process. Test results can vary depending on many factors and your doctor or provider can explain why a result may be normal or abnormal. Be prepared for your next blood test by having the knowledge and understanding of the procedure.