Blood tests

Blood tests

A blood test , also known as bloodwork, is a laboratory analysis performed on a blood sample that is usually extracted from a vein in the arm using a needle, or via fingerprick. Blood tests[1] (also referred to as blood work) are used to determine physiological and biochemical states, such as disease, mineral content, drug effectiveness, and organ function. They are also used in drug tests.


Venipuncture is useful as it is a minimally invasive way to obtain cells and extracellular fluid (plasma) from the body for analysis. Since blood flows throughout the body, acting as a medium for providing oxygen and nutrients, and drawing waste products back to the excretory systems for disposal, the state of the bloodstream affects, or is affected by, many medical conditions. For these reasons, blood tests are the most commonly performed medical tests.[2]

If only a few drops of blood are needed, a fingerstick is performed instead of drawing blood from a vein.[3]

Phlebotomists, laboratory practitioners and nurses are those charged with patient blood extraction. However, in special circumstances, and emergency situations, paramedics and physicians sometimes extract blood. Also, respiratory therapists are trained to extract arterial blood for arterial blood gases.[4][5]

Types of blood tests

Biochemical analysis

A basic metabolic panel measures sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), magnesium, creatinine, glucose, and sometimes includes calcium. Blood tests focusing on cholesterol levels can determine LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, as well as triglyceride levels.[6]

Some blood tests, such as those that measure glucose, cholesterol, or for determining the existence or lack of STD, require fasting (or no food consumption) eight to twelve hours prior to the drawing of the blood sample.[7]

For the majority of blood tests, blood is usually obtained from the patient's vein. However, other specialized blood tests, such as the arterial blood gas, require blood extracted from an artery. Blood gas analysis of arterial blood is primarily used to monitor carbon dioxide and oxygen levels related to pulmonary function, but it is also used to measure blood pH and bicarbonate levels for certain metabolic conditions.[8]

While the regular glucose test is taken at a certain point in time, the glucose tolerance test involves repeated testing to determine the rate at which glucose is processed by the body.[9]

Normal ranges

Test[10][11] Low High Unit Comments
Sodium (Na) 136 145 mmol/L
Potassium (K) 3.5 5.0 mmol/L
Urea 2.5 6.4 mmol/L BUN - blood urea nitrogen
Urea 15 40 mg/dL
Creatinine - male 62 115 μmol/L
Creatinine - female 53 97 μmol/L
Creatinine - male 0.7 1.3 mg/dL
Creatinine - female 0.6 1.2 mg/dL
Glucose (fasting) 3.9 5.8 mmol/L See also glycosylated hemoglobin
Glucose (fasting) 70 120 mg/dL

Molecular profiles

Cellular evaluation

Future alternatives

Saliva tests

In 2008, scientists announced that the more cost effective saliva testing could eventually replace some blood tests, as saliva contains 20% of the proteins found in blood.[12]


February 2011: Canadian researchers have developed a microchip for blood tests. It is called microemulsion, a droplet of blood captured inside a layer of another substance. It can control the exact size and spacing of the droplets. The new test could improve the efficiency, accuracy and speed of laboratory tests while also doing it cheaply. The microchip costs $25, whereas the robotic dispensers currently in use cost around $10,000. [13]


March 2011: A team of researchers from UC Berkeley, DCU and University of Valparaíso have developed lab-on-a-chip that can diagnose diseases within 10 minutes without the use of external tubing and extra components. It is called Self-powered Integrated Microfluidic Blood Analysis System (SIMBAS). It uses tiny trenches to separate blood cells from plasma (99 percent of blood cells were captured during experiments). Researchers used plastic components, to reduce manufacturing costs.[14][15]

See also


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