Encyclopedia of Family Health - Vol. 15

By David B. Jacoby; Robert M. Youngson | Go to book overview

Specimens

Questions and Answers

What would be found in a urine
sample taken during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, the placenta
produces human chorionic
gonadotropin (HCG), which is
detectable from about six weeks.
It is produced in increasing
amounts during pregnancy and is
excreted in the urine. Its presence
in the urine almost always means
that the patient is pregnant.

Are specimens of skin tissue ever
taken to diagnose skin disease?

Yes. This may be done to
diagnose fungal infections and
skin cancer, which can often be
completely cured, either by
removing the abnormal skin and a
thin rim of normal skin around it,
or by radiotherapy. A skin sample
may also be taken to rule out skin
cancer, which mimics many other
conditions, and to identify the
exact disease, because this will
affect treatment. Taking a
specimen of skin is usually a
simple procedure which can be
done under local anesthesia.

Why does every patient in a
hospital have a blood test?

Sometimes blood tests are done
to look for a specific disease such
as anemia during pregnancy.
Often, blood is taken as part of a
screening procedure, and is
subjected to tests that are most
likely to help diagnosis. Every
patient has a urine test for sugar,
blood, and protein, which may
show unsuspected diabetes or
kidney disease.

Can an unborn baby be tested?

Yes. The amniotic fluid can be
tested to reveal deformities or
blood group incompatibilities
between mother and baby. The
baby sheds cells, which can be
cultured and tested.

Taking a specimen from someone is usually a simple, painless procedure, and the information it provides can be invaluable in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Most people have had a blood or urine test at some time. These are the most common of a wide range of samples which may be taken from the body’s tissues or fluids to assist in diagnosing a disease. A huge number of specimens are sent daily to pathology laboratories where detailed analyses are carried out. The physician’s skill in piecing together his or her patient’s symptoms is supported by extensive laboratory data (see Diagnosis; Pathology).

Specimens can be taken from all body fluids and tissues. Blood and urine are the most common because they are easy to obtain, relatively cheap to test, and very useful in diagnosis. For just a routine examination blood and urine tests can reveal serious diseases, such as anemia, leukemia, and diabetes. A range of more detailed tests of blood and urine are routinely used in clinical medicine (see Laboratory Tests).


Blood tests

In addition to the assessment of the number and appearance of the red blood cells and of their hemoglobin content, blood is commonly examined for the presence of some of the many specific enzymes and antibodies it may contain (see Blood). When heart muscle is damaged in a heart attack, certain enzymes are released into the blood from the affected cells. A measurement of the levels of such enzymes can give an accurate assessment of the amount of heart muscle affected and hence of the severity of the heart attack and the probable outcome (see Heart Attack). The process is similar when the liver is damaged by infection or poisoning.

Blood antibody levels are among the most important of the many tests that can be performed on blood specimens. Modern techniques of Identification and the level of antibodies present allow very precise diagnosis of previous infection. Many hundreds of different conditions can be identified in this way.

For most blood tests, a specimen of blood may be taken from a vein in the arm using a syringe and fine needle. In some cases it is sufficient to prick a finger and obtain a drop of blood. There

A Vein punctures are used to remove
blood to be used for laboratory tests
.

A technician checks the labels on
sample bottles in a laboratory
.

-2024-

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Encyclopedia of Family Health - Vol. 15
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Spastic Colon 2022
  • Specimens 2024
  • Speculum 2027
  • Speech 2028
  • Speech Therapy 2032
  • Sperm 2034
  • Sphygmomanometer 2036
  • Spina Bifida 2037
  • Spinal Cord 2040
  • Spleen 2044
  • Splinters 2047
  • Splints 2048
  • Sports Injury 2050
  • Sports Medicine 2052
  • Sprains 2056
  • Stammering and Stuttering 2058
  • Staphylococcus 2062
  • Starch 2063
  • Stem Cell 2065
  • Stenosis 2067
  • Sterilization 2068
  • Steroids 2072
  • Stethoscope 2074
  • Stiffness 2076
  • Stillbirth 2080
  • Stimultants 2083
  • Stitch 2086
  • Stomach 2088
  • Stomach Pump 2091
  • Strangulation 2094
  • Streptococcus 2097
  • Stress 2098
  • Stress Management 2103
  • Stretch Marks 2105
  • Sty 2112
  • Subconscious 2114
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome 2116
  • Suffocation 2118
  • Sugars 2120
  • Suicide 2122
  • Sunburn 2126
  • Sunstroke 2130
  • Suppositories 2132
  • Surgery 2134
  • Surrogacy 2141
  • Sutures 2144
  • Swellings 2145
  • Symptoms 2149
  • Syphilis 2153
  • Syringing 2156
  • Index 2158
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