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As a medical specialty, clinical pathology in Los Angeles centers on using laboratory analysis to diagnose disease.
- Blood, tissue, urine and other specimens are analyzed using tools and disciplines of microbiology, molecular pathology, chemistry and hematology.
- A basic metabolic panel, complete blood count and lipoprotein panel are some of the hundreds of test options available through clinical pathology labs.
Labs, overseen by physicians known as pathologists, collect specimens, study them under a microscope or other diagnostic tool and use the results to make a diagnosis or request further testing. Blood, commonly collected for many tests, is examined in three ways: whole, as plasma, which is blood with red and white cells removed, or as serum, which is the fluid that remains when blood blots. Urine, sputum, or phlegm, and other bodily fluids are common specimens for testing. Some testing requires feces, or stool, samples.
Types of Tests
With clinical pathology in Los Angeles, testing might include a CBC panel, which is a complete blood count. Blood is drawn from the arm or hand for most people, but children and infants get a finger or heel stick. This test examines physical traits of blood cells, monitors blood disorders and shows how well a patient responds to treatment. CBC panels are a type of coagulation test, which measure how well and how fast blood clots. Other types of coagulation tests include Bleeding Time, Fibrinogen Level, Platelet Count and Prothrombin Time.
Another common blood test is CMP, or comprehensive metabolic panel. Measuring how well a person’s metabolism works, the CMP test assesses the levels of 19 items in the blood stream. In addition to checking liver and kidney function, sodium, potassium, glucose, magnesium and other levels are monitored. When doctors want to check fats in the blood, a lipid panel is ordered, and blood is drawn. A typical lipid panel tests HDL, LDL and triglycerides. The high density lipoprotein (HDL) is good cholesterol that helps decrease arterial blockages. Low density lipoprotein (LDL) is bad cholesterol and the main source of arterial buildup and blockages. Triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood, is tested to determine if it’s too high. Results of the lipid panel help doctors assess the risk of heart disease and recommend treatment options.
Urinalysis involves checking the outward appearance of urine, as well as its concentration and content. These tests are ordered for routine medical screenings as part of an annual physical, for pre-surgery screening, during pregnancy check-ups and before a hospital admission. Sometimes urinalysis is ordered for patients complaining of back or abdominal pain, discomfort during urination, blood in urine, a fever, or other complaints. Pathologists sometimes order urinalysis to diagnose liver or kidney disease, urinary tract illnesses or other medical conditions.
Hemoglobin A1C tests track blood sugar control. Typically used for diabetic patients to measure how well their treatment plan is working, this test is also effective in screening the development of diabetes in other patients. Those with the disease may take a hemoglobin A1C test every three months to monitor their condition. Immunology lab tests help physicians see the condition of a person’s immune system. They are used to detect autoimmune disorders and diagnose diseases. Typically, a doctor orders immunology tests if a patient has been ill and other tests have not found a cause. Types of immunology testing include the immune globulin test, which measures antibodies, and infectious disease serology, which looks for shingles, Lyme disease and other conditions.
Toxicology testing measures drugs in a patient’s system. This include both legal and illegal drugs. Testing frequently involves blood or urine, but some testers require hair or saliva samples. Four types of toxicology testing exist, including medical testing, which is used by physicians to find and treat poisons in the body. Other types of toxicology testing include those requested by employers checking for drug use among employees; forensic toxicology tests, which are part of an autopsy seeking a cause of death; and, testing of athletes to find controlled or banned substances.
Some testing does not require blood or urine, such as those for gastrointestinal (GI) infections, which is often needed to determine the exact problem. Stool samples is among the most commonly used methods to detect GI infections. Through microscopic examination, the sample is analyzed for absorption, digestion and microbial balance. Foreign substances and bacterial and viral antigens are checked. Changes in stool consistency, color and pH, as well as bile, sugars and other components could show the cause of a GI infection. For more information, contact our clinical pathology in Los Angeles lab.