The Lab Process
Each time your physician orders lab work, do you wonder what happens next? Rest assured that each and every specimen collected at UPMC Western Maryland is carefully handled. Accurate diagnostic results are reported in a timely manner every time.
The first person you meet when you have lab work is the phlebotomist, a person skillfully trained to obtain blood. At UPMC Western Maryland, phlebotomists work with both inpatients and outpatients, from our tiniest newborns to those who are still young at heart. In addition, UPMC Western Maryland phlebotomists work at our convenient off-campus lab sites and travel to area nursing homes. In total, the phlebotomists draw blood for an average of 25,000 patients monthly.
After the sample is collected, it is sent to the Lab for processing. The specimen processing specialists check all incoming requisitions for accuracy and appropriate documentation. They then route the samples to the correct department for testing. Included in this team’s responsibilities are generating and compiling all the summary reports that are sent to the ordering physicians.
The Hematology Department has two state-of-the-art high volume instruments which are mounted on a totally automated line. The CBC or Complete Blood Count is the most frequently ordered test by physicians. The CBC measures the white blood count, red blood count, hemoglobin, hematocrit, platelets, indices and a 5-part differential.Your parameters can be perfectly normal with a routine physical exam or in some cases these parameters may be indicators of disorders such as bleeding, infection, or abnormal blood disorders such as leukemia. Coagulation testing is also performed in this department. The most common tests are PT (Prothrombin Time) and the APTT (Activated Partial Thromboplastin Time). Hundreds of CBC’s and Protimes are performed daily in the Lab.
The Microbiology Department receives specimens for culturing. Blood, urine, spinal fluid and wound sites are examples of sources that are cultured. Specimens are plated on media, which when incubated at controlled temperatures, grow organisms for identification. After identifying the pathogenic organisms, sensitivities are reported for specific antibiotics utilized in the treatment of the infection. This report is sent to your physician so he or she can prescribe the most appropriate medication.
The largest department in the Lab is Chemistry. It utilizes an advanced robotic system to streamline specimen processing, analysis and reporting of results. The automated system centrifuges the specimen, de-caps the tube, and transports it to the analyzer. After analysis, the system has a refrigerated storage capacity of 3,060 samples.
The Chemistry Department receives samples for testing endocrinology, cancer markers, hormone levels, complete metabolic panels, therapeutic drug levels, toxicology screenings, cardiology screening & etc. Urinalysis is also done utilizing an automated system that photographs microscopic elements for review and reporting.
The Pathology/Cytology Department processes fluids and tissues for review by the pathologists, who review slides from these samples at the microscopic level for diagnosis of cancer and other disease processes.
The Blood Bank is responsible for obtaining products for infusion. The most requested product for transfusion is packed red cells. Red cells are used during surgery, for trauma victims, oncology patients and chronic bleeders. Platelet transfusions are given when a patient is unable to sustain a normal platelet count on their own due to bleeding, radiation and chemotherapy. Plasma is given to help correct blood clotting deficiencies that may occur during surgery.