When you have a blood sample taken, it’s usually done in your doctor’s rooms, at a pathology collection centre, clinic or hospital. Depending on where it takes place the person taking the sample will be a doctor, nurse, or trained phlebotomist – often known as a pathology collector. 
Blood samples are most commonly taken from the inside of the elbow where the veins are usually closer to the surface. 

A tight band or tourniquet will be wrapped around your upper arm to slow the flow of blood.

Before the needle is inserted, the area will be cleaned with an antiseptic cloth.  The blood sample is transferred into tubes containing the correct preservatives. A small dressing will be placed on the spot where the needle has been  to keep it clean and prevent infection.


Labelling the tube with your name, a personal ID number and the date and time of collection is of the utmost importance. Before the blood sample is taken the person collecting it will ask you to state and/or spell your full names and date of birth. This is to confirm that you are the right person. They may ask you to repeat it after the sample has been taken. For more on this go to Why identification is important.



After the sample has been collected and labelled, it is transported to the laboratory. Once the specimen arrives in the laboratory it is booked into the laboratory's computer system. The tube label contains all the information necessary to ensure that the sample is analysed for all the tests requested by your doctor and that the results are matched to your name.


In many blood tests, an automated instrument analyses the sample. In this picture, the tube of blood is being placed directly into the machine. This particular state-of-the-art analyser is capable of running batches of samples - up to 120 samples per hour.


With the latest technology in analysers comes the ability to generate the results electronically and graphically. The results are checked for quality and accuracy, approved by the laboratory staff and then sent to the doctor (either printed or by electronic download).  If the results indicate the patient may be very ill, the laboratory may call the doctor with the results.

The length of time between taking the blood sample and when the doctor gets the results can vary greatly, from as little as an hour to as much as several weeks. Urgent tests are performed immediately. Non-urgent test may be performed the next day or on the next run of that particular test.

Specialised tests may need to be sent away to a reference laboratory and results may not be available for some time.

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