Laboratory professionals are the unsung heroes of health care. You don’t often see us, but we are here 24/7.

Whether it is measuring cholesterol levels to determine a patient’s risk for cardiovascular disease, sequencing the DNA of tumors to help decide the best choice of chemotherapy, or culturing specimens to pinpoint the cause of a gastrointestinal infection, laboratory medicine is there as a partner to patients and clinicians in improving the patient’s health and healthcare. The majority of treatment decisions are based on lab test results. From simple to complex testing, laboratory medicine is a major gear in the mechanism that is the healthcare system.

Before offering any test, we make sure it is accurate and reliable. Each test is monitored frequently by running specimens with known results as controls. The laboratory compares the results of every test we do with those of hundreds of labs in nationwide proficiency testing programs. Our laboratory is inspected biannually and accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP), regulated by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), licensed by the state of Georgia, and accredited by other governing bodies based on specialty.

All of our Clinical Laboratory Scientists (Medical Technologists) and Registered Laboratory Technicians are college educated professionals specializing in clinical laboratory science. We run the tests, assess the quality of the results and report those results. Our Pathologists (physicians who specialize in laboratory medicine) provide medical leadership to the laboratory, analyze and interpret specialized tests, and consult with the patient’s physician on the right test(s) to order and the meaning of the results. All of our Phlebotomists are trained in the collection and processing of blood specimens. They also receive and process specimens that are delivered to the laboratory by patients and staff.

 

 

Technician working with ultrasound

Why Test?

The doctor may order a lab test for one or more of the following reasons:

• To confirm a suspected diagnosis
• To exclude a diagnosis
• To check effectiveness of treatment
• To monitor prescription drug levels
• To screen for a treatable condition

When blood, urine, or other body substances are submitted, the technical and professional staff process the sample, analyze it, and report the results to the ordering physician. Generally, results are available to the physician within 24 hours. For cultures and more specialized tests, it may take a little longer to get results.

 

How to Obtain Results?

To obtain results of tests performed at AU Medical Center, please log in to the Virtually Informed Patient portal or call your physician’s office. The lab cannot communicate results directly to the patient on the phone or in person.


Types of Laboratory Tests

Hematology is the study of the blood cells. There are 3 kinds of cells in the bloodstream:

  • Red Cells transport oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body.
  • White Cells are vital in fighting infection.
  • Platelets help stop bleeding by forming “plugs” in the vessels.

A CBC measures the total amount of hemoglobin and the total number of red cells, white cells, and platelets.

There are many different kinds of Chemistry tests. Some examples of “routine” chemistry tests are:

  • Glucose is measured for the diagnosis and monitoring of Diabetes Mellitus.
  • BUN/Creatinine are tests of kidney function.
  • Sodium and Potassium are salt balance tests. They are important in people with disease and in those taking diuretics.
  • Bilirubin, Alkaline Phosphatase, ALT, AST and GGT are liver function tests.
  • Total Protein and Albumin provide information about liver function, kidney disease, infection, nutrition, and certain disorders of the antibody producing cells.
  • TSH and Free T4 detect disorders of the thyroid gland.

Coagulation testing is ordered to rule-out a bleeding disorder. Various anticoagulants can be used to prevent blood from clotting too quickly. The PT/INR test is used to monitor these medications.

The Microbiology laboratory helps to find what is causing an infection and how the doctor should treat it. Testing can be done on a wound or sore, blood, urine, stool or other body fluid. The specimens are smeared on a small plate of agar (a gelatin–like material) and placed in an incubator that is maintained at body temperature. After incubating, the plates are examined for bacterial growth. The technologists determine what types of bacteria are present, and which antibiotics would deliver the best treatment. This stage of the process usually occurs over a two day period. For some slower growing organisms, it may take up to six weeks to get the final results. Molecular testing methods have replaced several of the conventional microbiology incubation methods, reducing the overall time needed to obtain results from days to minutes.

Urinalysis is a common evaluation consisting of several chemical tests. These tests help detect diabetes, liver disease, diseases of the kidney and bladder, and some blood disorders and infections. The urine may also be examined under a microscope to confirm findings.


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Additional Resources

Meet Our Team of Pathologists

Laboratory Test Results

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