Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.  What are blood gases?
A:  This test is used to determine if you have an imbalance in the amount of oxygen (O2) or carbon dioxide gas in your blood or an acid-base imbalance which may indicate a respiratory (lung/breathing), metabolic, or kidney disorder.  Your doctor might order this test if you have symptoms of difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or rapid breathing (hyperventilation).

Q.  What are Cardiac Markers?
A:  Biomarkers are enzymes (CK and CKMB), proteins (Troponin-I), and hormones (BNP) that are associated with heart function, damage, or failure.  Some are specific for the heart (like Trononin I and BNP) and others are also elevated with skeletal muscle damage in addition to heart damage (CK and CKMB).  Cardiac Markers are often ordered when someone comes in to the ER with chest pain, pressure, nausea, and shortness of breath and can also be used to detect heart failure and determine the prognosis of patients who have had a heart attack. 

Q.  What is CBC?
A:  A screening panel of tests that examine different parts of your blood (white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets as well as hemoglobin, the part of the blood that carries oxygen).  The test is used to screen for anemia, infection, and many other diseases. If you are experiencing certain symptoms like fatigue or weakness or have an infection, inflammation, bruising, or bleeding, a CBC will help your doctor determine the cause. 

Q.  What are Chemistry Panels?
A:  These are groups of tests that are routinely ordered to determine your general health status.  They help evaluate the body's electrolyte balance and/or the status of several major body organs.  The CMP (Comprehensive Metabolic Panel) is a group of tests that gives your doctor important information about the status of your kidneys, liver and electrolytes which maintain the body's fluid balance as well as your blood sugar and blood proteins. Although this is generally a screening panel, it can be used to check for conditions such as diabetes, liver disease, and kidney disease.  It can also be used to monitor for any kidney- or liver-related side effects of medications you may be taking

Q.  What D-Dimer?
A:  This is part of the fragments of disintegrating fibrin of a clot that has formed when there's been injury to a vein or artery that begins to leak blood, activating the body's clotting process to "plug the hole."  Protein threads form to make a net that catches the blood's platelets that together form a clot and hold it in place at the site of the injury.  As the body starts to heal, the clot breaks down, releasing products, one of which is D-Dimer. 

The test is used to rule out blood clot producing diseases and conditions.  It may be ordered when you have signs or symptoms of such a disease that causes acute and/or chronic inappropriate blood clot formation such as DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) which can cause large blood clots which blocks circulation in the legs or in other body parts such as the heart (causing heart attacks or abnormal heart rhythm), PE (Pulmonary Embolism) when a piece of the clot breaks off and travels to the lungs or other body parts such as the brain (causing a stroke). 

Q.  What is a Glucose Test?
A:  Also known as blood sugar, it screens for, diagnoses, or monitors for High or Low Blood Sugar, Diabetes, and Pre-Diabetes.  It can be performed if you have symptoms suggestive of diabetes, or other symptoms (such as fainting or loss of consciousness) and during pregnancy.  If you are a known diabetic, you may have this test done several times a day.  Glucose can also be elevated or decreased in other disease states and with certain medications. 

Q.  What is Glycohemoglobin or Hemoglobin A1C?
A:  This evaluates the average amount of glucose in the blood over the last 2-3 months.  It is a measure of compliance with maintaining good blood sugar control in a known diabetic over time.  The goal of someone with diabetes is to keep their blood glucose level as close to normal as possible to minimize the complications caused by chronically elevated glucose levels (i.e., kidney disease, nerve problems, eye problems, poor wound healing).

Q.  What a Lipid Panel?
A:  Contains the tests Total Cholesterol, HDL Cholesterol ("good" cholesterol), and Triglycerides as well as the calculations of VLDL Cholesterol and LDL Cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol).  This profile is often ordered to assess your risk of coronary heart disease.  The tests in the Lipid profile have been shown to be good indicators of where someone is likely to have a heart attack or stroke caused by blockage of blood vessels (also known as hardening of the arteries).  The Lipid Profile can tell your doctor if you're at risk and if so, the best way to treat you.

Q.  What is a Liver Panel?
A:  Also known as a hepatic function panel, it's used to detect, evaluate, and monitor liver disease or damage.  The test panel is ordered when symptoms suspicious of a liver condition are present such as jaundice, dark urine, light-colored bowel movements, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea, loss of appetite, vomiting blood or bloody/black stool, swelling/pain in the belly, unusual weight change, or fatigue or loss of stamina.  It can also be used to determine if you are experiencing liver damage as a result of medication you are taking (for example, the statins that people take to lower blood cholesterol can have liver effects in some patients).

Q.  What is a Prothrombin Time (PT & INR)?
A:  This test is used to evaluate the body's ability through the measurement of clotting factors to produce a clot in a reasonable amount of time.  Prothrombin is one of several clotting factors that are produced in the liver.  PT's are routinely performed to test the effectiveness of anticoagulant (blood thinner) therapy like Warfarin or Coumadin.  The test can assess both bleeding and clotting tendencies and the drugs must be carefully monitored to maintain a balance between bleeding and clotting.  These tests can be performed prior to surgery to look for a bleeding disorder or to ensure the body's ability to clot.