It’s impossible to explain every blood analysis test, within in the context of this article. This is a quick overview of the most common ordered blood tests to give you an idea of the information they can reveal. Diagnostic tests are not always positive or negative. ALL results must always be evaluated in the context of what was abnormal in your medical examination and why the test was ordered. Understand, too, that sometimes test results and the answers aren’t immediate. Below is briefly explained the most common blood tests you get stuck for!
Complete Blood Count (CBC)—You’ve heard it ordered on the TV shows, “Get me a CBC stat!” A CBC is a common blood test that provides a general picture of your blood levels. It’s typically ordered for complaints such as fatigue, weakness, inflammation, bruising, fever and bleeding. It is an automated count of the cells in your blood that includes information on the number, shape and size of your cells. A standard CBC includes eight tests, with the big five being:
White Blood Cell (WBC) count helps to identify infection, immune problems, cancer and leukemia. If the numbers are high or low, further testing is usually required.
Red Blood Cell (RBC) count helps to identify anemia if decreased.
Hemoglobin (HGB) measures the oxygen-carrying proteins in the blood. When low, it indicates blood loss and anemia which can be life-threatening.
Hematocrit (HCT) measures the percentage of red blood cells in a given volume of blood. Again, if the level is low, anemia is indicated.
Platelets are looked at to identify problems related to bleeding and clotting.
Next up in the “ER” list of blood tests is the Basic Metabolic Panel (BMP) which checks the electrolyte and mineral levels in the blood that are so important for keeping your muscles, heart and other organs working properly. Included here is your level of:
Sodium (Na), which is important for regulating the fluid balance in your body and transmitting electrical signals in the brain and muscles. When you’re dehydrated, due to vomiting or diarrhea, your level could be high or low. Signs of a sodium imbalance are confusion, weakness and lethargy. IV medication is necessary to correct the imbalance.
Chloride (Cl) also helps to regulate fluids in your body. Chemical reactions are taking place in your body all the time. When a chemical like chloride is lacking, the blood becomes more acidic and reactions don’t occur efficiently and your body doesn’t function properly.
Potassium (K) is necessary for proper functioning of the heart and plays a key role in skeletal and smooth muscle contraction. If your level is too high or too low, you’re at increased risk of an abnormal heart beat. Muscle weakness is often related to a low potassium level. A low potassium level is often the result of: diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating, malnutrition, and malabsorption syndromes, such as Crohn’s disease. In addition, many blood pressure medications that cause you to lose water also cause you to lose potassium when you urinate. Kidney problems can cause high levels. If your potassium level is low, you’ll be given potassium supplements either by mouth or IV.
Bicarbonate (HCO3) tells about the carbon dioxide (CO2) in your body that is influenced by your lungs and kidney functioning. Abnormal levels may suggest that you are losing or retaining fluid, which causes an imbalance in your body’s electrolytes. Proper body function requires a balance between the acids and bases. You probably know all about acids and bases if you paid attention in chemistry class!
Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) tells us how your kidneys are functioning. When this level is high, it tells us the waste products, made when your body breaks down protein, aren’t being excreted properly. Dehydration and bleeding can raise BUN levels.
Creatinine (Cr) is another indicator of how well your kidneys are working. When this number is high, we know the kidneys aren’t filtering and getting rid of creatinine properly. Muscle damage and dehydration are often related to an elevated creatinine level.
Glucose (Glu) is a type of sugar in your blood. The level fluctuates, depending on what you eat and when and how much energy you’re using. When levels are too high, we look for health problems, like diabetes.
Blood Tests for Heart Function
Creatinine phosphokinase (CPK) is an enzyme found in your brain, heart, and skeletal muscles. The level is elevated if there has been injury or stress in these areas. Heart muscle secretes a specific CPK called “MB”. So if your CPK is elevated and you’re having chest pain, they will run the CPK-MB to determine if your heart muscle is involved. Repeat isoenzyme CPK-MBs may be ordered in three hours because levels go up three to six hours after a heart attack. Remember that your heart is a muscle so the CPK is commonly checked when heart involvement is suspected. Know that common medications, such as antibiotics, alcohol and cocaine, can effect test results-so be honest about all drugs you are taking.
Troponin (TnI; TnT; cTnI; cTnT ) is an indicator of the troponin level in cardiac muscle proteins. Either the I or T is ordered. If the heart has been injured, such as with a heart attack, the level will rise within six hours, providing information on the damage. Commonly the test is repeated in 12 to 16 hours.
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