Laboratory at Western
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The Department of Laboratory Services at CTCA at Western Regional Medical Center (Western) plays an important role in patient care. Laboratory tests help in cancer diagnosis, staging, and treatment planning. These tests include those of the blood, urine, or other bodily fluids. The goal is to ensure that you receive the appropriate cancer treatment plan designed for you, the patient.
Skilled medical technologists work behind the scenes at Western's laboratory. The team prides itself on accurate, reliable and rapid turnaround times for in-house blood tests. Our motto is, "Wait time is worry time," and our goal is to eliminate as much of this wait time as possible.
For Your Convenience
Every department at Western delivers "Point of Care" or "POC" services. This means that laboratory services are brought to you, rather than asking our patients to travel to other parts of the hospital. At Western, we collect blood and specimen samples at your bedside or in your clinic treatment room. Clinicians from conventional and complementary medicine departments embrace this level of patient care whenever possible.
Director of Laboratory Services, Marilyn Ward says, "We take the services to the patient, not the patient to the services. This process decreases wait time for everyone involved with the patients’ care."
The i-STAT is one way that the Western laboratory offers POC service. Using the handheld device, our nurses collect just 2 or 3 drops of blood, allowing for a range of blood tests to be performed at the bedside.
Depending on the blood test involved, this device can deliver real-time, lab-quality results within a matter of minutes. Your care team can review the results and make any changes to your treatment plan immediately, saving precious time and energy.
Currently, the I-STAT is used by:
- Cardiopulmonary team, to evaluate arterial blood gases and monitor lung function.
- Coumadin Clinic, to measure how long the blood takes to clot and make adjustments to medication.
- Imaging, to evaluate kidney function before imaging tests.
This state-of-the-art device allows for rapid testing to be performed and vital results to be available in minutes. Says Ward, "It's unusual to have these devices out of the lab, and in the hands of doctors and nurses. Our team draws all blood samples at the bedside, which is different than most hospitals. In addition to being more time-effective and reducing mistakes, our patients develop trusting relationships with our nurses. This bond is part of what makes us so different."
Advanced POC technology piloted at Western, the Sunquest Collection Manager, is a positive patient identification device designed to eliminate errors and ensure patient safety. Our nurses use this handheld device to positively identify a patient by scanning his or her bar-coded armband. This ensures that the right tests are performed on the right patient, and maintains the highest level of positive patient identification. The device also prints labels that are affixed to the patient’s samples – all at the point of care.
"Once Collection Manager is activated, labels are printed," says Ward. "Patient information and lab requirements are printed on these labels. All of these vital steps create a feeling of confidence in the patient and help ensure safety."
Aside from blood tests, other key divisions of the Laboratory include processing of blood, chemistry, transfusion services, hematology, and urinalysis.
This group of tests uses chemical processes to measure levels of chemical components in the blood or urine to help us evaluate your general health status. Components of the blood include: blood glucose (sugar), electrolytes, enzymes (e.g., creatinine kinase), lipids (e.g., cholesterol), proteins (e.g., albumin, globulins), hormones (e.g., cortisol), and other metabolic substances (e.g., uric acid, blood urea nitrogen, or BUN). Some special chemistry tests deal primarily with tests for thyroid function, vitamin B12 and folate, and tumor markers.
- Tumor Market Tests: A tumor marker is a substance that can be found in the blood or other bodily fluids which may be elevated in a person with cancer. Aside from detecting the presence of cancer, tumor markers are used to monitor your response to therapy. Tumor marker testing turnaround time is less than two hours from the time blood is drawn to the time the results are sent to the medical oncologist. Ward explains, “Patients who visit other facilities than CTCA may have to wait a week or two for these results to come back.”
Blood Bank/Transfusion Services
One specialty within the Laboratory is transfusion medicine, otherwise known as the blood bank. Medical technologists in the blood bank are responsible for insuring that blood products given to you are compatible with each patient’s blood. Donated blood is screened for infectious diseases and tested for antibodies, to ensure the blood is suitable for a transfusion. We use the highest level of checks and balances in this department to ensure safety.
Hematology is the study of blood cells and blood-related disorders. Tests performed by this team include complete blood counts (CBC), differentials, body fluid analysis and bone marrow procedures. The results are used to monitor your general health.
- Complete Blood Count (CBC): CBCs are performed on an analyzer using laser technology, which measures the reflection of the laser light from each individual cell, and in turn, provides cell identification. CBCs are used to gage your ability to receive additional therapy. The analyses may also help diagnose anemia, blood cancers, and problems in the bone marrow. A CBC can include white blood cell count (WBC), red blood cell count (RBC), platelet count, hematocrit red blood cell volume (HCT), and hemoglobin concentration (HB) and a differential blood count, identifying the blood cells.
- Coagulation Tests: These tests are used to measure platelet function, coagulability, and clotting ability to help diagnose and/or to monitor bleeding and clotting disorders, as well as anticoagulation (anti-clotting) therapies (e.g., heparin therapy). Bleeding and clotting disorders can result from cancers such as liver disease, or as a side effect of certain medications.
- Urinalysis (UA) Test: This test determines the content of urine to help diagnose infections (e.g., of the kidney, bladder) and disease. It includes examination of color, pH level, red and white blood cells, bacteria, and chemical analysis of blood, proteins, glucose, and other substances.