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Laboratory investigations & blood samples

Just like your doctor may want to get blood samples for investigation, we also look at organ function by means of blood tests. Just like the nurse at your doctor’s surgery might obtain the blood, we too have nurses who help us with samples.

Unlike us humans, our pets need to have some fur clipped away  for us to see their blood vessels. We’ll often use a blood vessel in the neck of cats, and sometimes dogs, because it allows us to get a good sample very quickly rather than it coming out spot by spot ! It can look a bit scary for an owner, but it definitely looks much worse than it really is.

At the hospital we have analysers for blood and for organ function. The results are generally available within half an hour, somewhat quicker than the NHS manages to get results on blood for ourselves! Blood sample analysers can look at the blood cells, their types and numbers.

The blood contains a wide variety of cells, the main ones being red cells, and white cells. Red blood cells are the ones that carry oxygen around the body. Their numbers help us look at issues such as anaemia, too few red blood cells, and how it has developed, whether that be the loss of blood as a result of bleeding, or because new cells aren’t being produced.

White blood cells are the cells that fight infections either by producing antibodies, coordinating a response, or by attacking the cause of the infection.  Looking at the increases and in what proportions they are helps tell us about infections, or other problems such as tumours.

Biochemistry analysers look at a wide variety of materials in the blood that originate from different organs. They help tell us about how organs are functioning, or whether they are failing. For instance, a material called urea should be filtered out of the blood by the kidneys so if it goes up, we may know that the kidneys are failing, or that it is being increased in the blood stream for other reasons. Similarly, we can look at substances that tell us about the liver.

Analysers also helps us look at hormones, chemical messengers, in the bloodstream so if we have patients with excessive levels in their bloodstream, we can measure it and identify problems.

Pre-anaesthetic blood testing

Another common way of using blood samples is to check whether it is safe to anaesthetise a patient, or to at least know what precautions we must take during the procedure. We commonly look at kidney function, liver function, protein levels, and glucose levels. Wilmslow and Congleton also have biochemistry analysers so that they too can look at samples before anaesthetics and surgery.

More in this category: « Investigating problems X-Rays »

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