Specimen Handling

Introduction to Specimen Collection

Laboratory tests contribute vital information about a patient’s health. Correct diagnostic and therapeutic decisions rely, in part, on the accuracy of test results. Adequate patient preparation, specimen collection, and specimen handling are essential prerequisites for accurate test results. The accuracy of test results is dependent on the integrity of specimens.

Safety and Disposal Considerations in Specimen Collection

In all settings in which specimens are collected and prepared for testing, laboratory and health care personnel should follow current recommended sterile techniques, including precautions regarding the use of needles and other sterile equipment as well as guidelines for the responsible disposal of all biological material and contaminated specimen collection supplies. For all those who are involved in specimen collection and preparation, the responsibility to adhere to current recommendations designed to maintain the safety of both patients and health care workers does not end when the patient is dismissed.

Important Steps

  1. Patient Preparation – Occasionally, laboratory tests require patient preparations such as fasting.
  2. Specimen Collection and Labeling – Each specimen must be collected in an appropriate volume in the correct container and labeled with two different patient identifiers.
  3. Specimen Processing – To properly process specimens, please include a completed requisition, including patient demographics, insurance information, ordering physician, tests required and appropriate diagnosis codes.
  4. Specimen Transportation – All specimens must be transported in suitable containers and bags to guard against leakage which may pose a health hazard.
  5. Specimen Storage – Certain samples need to be frozen or refrigerated in order to obtain a reliable result.