Here are definitions for some of the most common terms that are used while performing phlebotomy jobs.
Blood: Life-sustaining fluid that continuously flows through the circulatory system of the human body and in other vertebrates. In humans, red blood cells, also called "plasma," white blood cells, and platelets are suspended in the circulating fluid.
Blood Culture: A procedure is used to check for the presence of microorganisms, possibly bacteria or fungi. A sterile blood sample is placed in a specially prepared growing medium and incubated for a period of time in a carefully controlled environment. If organisms are found, clinicians can test to see what drugs are effective in killing them, thereby determining proper treatment for the patient. It is standard procedure to perform a series of three blood cultures because microorganisms may present themselves sporadically in the blood.
Blood Vessels: Veins, arteries, and capillaries that serve as conduits to carry blood throughout the body. Veins take blood into the heart while arteries carry blood away from the heart. Capillaries permit blood cells to exchange nutrients with other types of cells.
Capillary: A tiny, hair-like blood vessel usually found near the ends of arteries and the beginnings of veins. Capillaries allow the exchange of nutrients between blood cells and other types of cells.
Chain of Custody: The procedure and records associated with a specimen as it moves through the laboratory process. Chain of custody is extremely important in blood testing that is performed for legal reasons, such as suspicion of drunk driving or random drug testing.
Circulatory System: Transports blood through the heart and to other organs throughout the body delivering oxygen and other nutrients. All types of blood vessels and the heart are parts of the circulatory system.
Heart: The main pump of the circulatory system.
Heel Stick: The most common method for collecting newborn blood for typing and testing for diseases and abnormalities. The baby's heel is pricked and blood is suctioned through a tiny tube.
Hematoma: A quantity of blood that has escaped from a blood vessel due to spontaneous bursting or injury and has settled in a specific location in the body, often in a muscle. Proper treatment depends on the cause and location of the hematoma.
Pre-analytical Errors: Testing errors that may occur from a long delay before performing a blood test, from improper handling, from failure to properly separate blood products, or from failure to control the blood storage temperature.
Syncope: Another term for fainting, where a person loses consciousness. This is usually due to a temporary decrease in blood flow to the brain which decreases the brain's oxygen supply and causes the black out. Fear and anxiety are two of many causes of syncope.
Vacutainer: An implement that consists of a hypodermic needle and a vacuum tube used to draw blood safely into a sealed container with no exposure to air or other potential contaminants.
Venipuncture: The process of using a needle to draw blood directly from a vein.