What Are in Vitro Diagnostics?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 08 July 2019
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In vitro diagnostics (IVD) are any type of medical tests performed outside of the body. Also called IVD tests, these tests involve samples that are taken from the body, such as blood or urine. The samples then undergo laboratory testing for various reasons.

When in vitro diagnostics were first used, samples were put into glass tubes called test tubes. Today, test tubes are still used but IVD tests also use computerized machines, glass slides, and other methods to gather required information. IVD test have a variety of uses.

One of the main purposes of in vitro diagnostics is in diagnosing an infection. Infections can occur from bacteria, fungi, and viruses. IVD testing allows a laboratory to find out exactly which form of one of those infecting agents is present. The results are passed to the doctor who can begin treating the problem properly based on what information the tests provided.

In addition to infections, in vitro diagnostics can also be used to provide information about how a person’s body is working. Blood, urine, and tissue samples can be tested through various IVD tests. From these results, doctors can see what may or may not be in the blood, problems with organs, or anything else related to bodily function. Although most types of IVD tests are done in a laboratory, there are some types that are not.


There are several types of in vitro diagnostics that are done in the doctor’s office and do not require laboratory testing. Finger prick tests take small samples of blood from the fingertip. Doctors can use this sample to check sugar and iron levels in the blood. Both of these tests can help doctors monitor diabetes and anemia.

Urine samples can also be tested in the doctor’s office. Various tests can be performed with dip sticks. These sticks will change colors to denote conditions, such as urinary tract infection. In some cases, urine samples can also provide information on the function of the kidneys.

Many in vitro diagnostics tests are available for home use. They can either provide results with use or samples can be taken at home and mailed to a laboratory. IVD tests that can provide results at home include pregnancy and ovulation tests and glucose meters. Certain tests allow samples to be taken and mailed to a laboratory, such as home paternity tests and drug testing. These tests are commonly used for people who want to monitor their health or that of someone else being cared for.



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