Blood diagnostics refers to any number of laboratory tests performed on a sample of blood in order to identify potential medical problems or conditions. Blood diagnostics are sometimes referred to as blood tests. They are used as a tool in assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients for an array of health conditions. Blood tests performed for diagnostic reasons tend to be specific and performed with a defined area of concern in mind.
Some of the blood diagnostics a doctor might order includes a complete blood count (CBC), blood chemistry panel, coagulation tests, cholesterol or lipid profile, and liver/renal function testing. Diagnostic blood tests are often part of a group of specified tests because abnormal patterns tend to be more pronounced in a grouping of tests. The goal of diagnostic blood tests is to establish a diagnosis. For example, if prostate cancer is suspected, the doctor might order a prostate-specific antigen blood level (PSA).
In order to obtain a blood sample, a phlebotomist or other health care professional will typically extract blood from a vein in the arm and send the sample to a laboratory for evaluation. During this investigative process, laboratory technicians assess the blood sample. If the samples show something out of the ordinary, a variety of specialists may be called.
A hematologist may be called upon to further assess the blood sample if conditions involving the blood are involved. Sometimes blood disorders or diseases of the blood, such as anemia, hemophilia, and leukemia, are the cause of the problem. Since hematologists are specialists in issues concerning the blood and the tissues that form blood, their expertise may be helpful in blood diagnostics that involve blood disorders.
Oncologists may also participate in diagnostic blood testing. As cancer specialists, these physicians may order tumor markers — blood tests aimed at identifying the presence of cancer. Tumor marker tests cover a variety of types of cancer including prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, and liver cancer.
Any number of diagnostic blood tests might be included in what is called a blood panel. Sometimes used interchangeably with a CBC test, a blood panel is a set of several blood tests used to screen for disease and assess a patient's overall health. In fact, when used in conjunction with other tests, blood diagnostics can be a useful tool in overall patient management.