Healthy Living

Everything You Need to Know About Lab Tests

Dec 3 2019

Whether you’re visiting your doctor for specific symptoms or it’s just time for your annual physical exam, he or she may order follow up lab tests to get a better, fuller picture of your health. Understanding what lab test it is and how to prepare can help you have a smooth, easy experience.

Why did my doctor order a lab test?

Lab tests can help doctors see how well your organs are working. Your doctor can use lab tests to:

  • Identify changes in your health condition before you have any symptoms.
  • Diagnose a disease or condition.
  • Plan your treatment for a condition.
  • Evaluate your response to medication or treatment.
  • Monitor a disease or condition over time.

What are some common lab tests?

Most often, lab tests use samples of blood, urine or other tissues. There are several common lab tests that help diagnose a variety of symptoms or conditions, including:

  • Basic Metabolic Panel – this measures glucose, sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, carbon dioxide, blood urea nitrogen and creatinine, which can all help determine your blood sugar levels, electrolyte and fluid balance, and kidney function. This test can help your doctor monitor effects of medications you’re taking and diagnose certain conditions. It may also be part of a routine health screening.
  • Complete Blood Count – also known as CBC, this is one of the most common types of blood tests. It measures the types and numbers of cells in the blood, including red cells, white cells, and platelets. It’s typically used to screen for disorders and evaluate nutritional status. It can also help diagnose conditions such as anemia, leukemia, and infection.
  • Cultures – these tests can help diagnose infections such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia, strep throat, MRSA and meningitis.
  • Comprehensive Metabolic Panel – this test combines several different tests for a comprehensive look at your body’s metabolic functions, focusing on your organs.
  • Hemoglobin A1C – this test is used to diagnose and monitor diabetes.
  • Lipid Panel – this group of tests helps evaluate your risk of cardiac events, such as a heart attack. It includes measuring your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • Prothrombin Time – also known as PT and Pro Time, this test helps measure how long it takes your blood to clot and can screen for bleeding abnormalities. It can also be used to help your doctor monitor medication treatments that may prevent the formation of blood clots in the future.
  • Urinalysis – this test can help check for early signs of disease and monitor diabetes or kidney disease.

What to bring to a lab test

Most of the time, you’ll be required to bring your insurance card and a photo ID. In some cases, your doctor will give you a signed lab order that includes which tests will be performed. Be sure to give this to your lab before they start the testing.

You may be told to fast beforehand

Some lab tests require you do not eat or drink anything for a certain period of time before the test. Ask your doctor or the lab if you should fast before your test, and for how long.

When and how you’ll get your test results

Most lab tests can be performed at the laboratory location, and results can be available within 24 hours. However, some tests may take longer. If you are within the Mercy Health network, you will be able to see your results in your MyChart account once they are ready.

Find a Mercy Health lab or imaging location near you.

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