Laboratories are a vital part of the world of medicine since modern medical laboratories do important diagnostic work for specialists in every medical field. While many medical laboratories do a variety of tests, some laboratories specialize in particular types of testing.
Cytopathology laboratory testing involves the examination of cell smears from various parts of the body to check for malignancy, inflammation or other problems. Examples of cytopathological tests are Pap smears for cervical examination or microscopic examination of skin cells to detect skin cancer. Cytopathology may also be used to test for allergies through, for example, the examination of nasal smears.
Microbiologists work mainly with cultures, looking for suspected pathogens in clinical specimens. The specimens they examine may include blood, cerebrospinal fluid, feces, sputum, synovial fluid and urine. Microbiology labs often do testing to determine whether a particular pathogen is resistant or sensitive to a particular medication. A subdivision of microbiology is parasitology that investigates the presence or absence of parasites. Most frequently microbiologists investigate feces, though they may examine blood, sputum and urine specimens as well.
Urinalysis tests for levels of various substances in the urine, including blood, glucose, bilirubin and protein. Urinalysis is very useful in diagnosing many diseases and conditions.
Virology testing is concerned with detecting and identifying viruses in specimens of blood, cerebrospinal fluid or urine.
Common Laboratory Tests
Laboratory tests are commonly performed as part of routine physical examinations. Perhaps the most common laboratory blood test is a complete blood count or CBC. Some of the other common laboratory tests which may show metabolic irregularities, organ or gland function, incipient or progressing disease processes, traumatic conditions or levels of prescribed medications may include tests for:
- Sugar in the blood
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH
- Lipid levels for high cholesterol
- Other abnormal enzymes and proteins
- Levels of electrolytes such as sodium and potassium
- Waste products in the blood
- Levels of anticoagulants or other medications in the blood
Common Pediatric Blood Tests
Infants and children have some special laboratory needs. They are more prone to certain kinds of infections than adults and, since they have a tendency to eat inappropriate material, are more susceptible to certain types of poisoning. Some common pediatric laboratory tests for children and infants may include:
- Complete blood count, or CBC
- Tests of electrolyte level
- Blood cultures to test whether infections have become systemic
- Tests for lead poisoning
- Liver function tests to check for organ damage or possible mononucleosis or hepatitis