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Home to Lab blood tests – the good, the bad, and the painful!

Home to Lab blood tests

You only have to look at Theranos to see how popular the idea of being able to take blood at home is. Indeed, the freedom to be able to send a blood sample off to a laboratory without a doctor or nurse sticking a big needle in your vein is convenient at the very least. Now whilst Theranos has hit the news in the worse possible way because of their alleged analyser accuracy,the medical supplies firm Baird Dickenson has had their “microtainer” avaliable for several years. The best thing about it is that the sample can be analysed using a traditional analyser found in your every day NHS or Private Laboratory.

What is a Microtainer?

Essentially, it’s a little plastic tube that has a small amount of anticoagulant in the bottom. The anticoagulant stops the blood clotting on the way to the laboratory. It has a lid (take the lid off before trying to put the blood in) and a label on the outside.

Aliases

Baird Dickenson have called their little plastic tube a “Microtainer” – they’ve trademarked the name – there are other manufacturers – Greiner is one, they have called their little plastic tube “Minicollect”. Blue Horizon uses both, depending on which laboratory the blood is going to be sent to for analysis.

Greiner minicollect
Greiner minicollect
BD Microtainer
BD Microtainer

They may also be referred to as “TDL Tinies” – TDL, the doctor’s laboratory is one of the labs we use. They may also be described as “Home to Lab”.

They will also sometimes be described in context of their usage – so they will also be described as fingerprick kits. This leads me to my next point, you will need to prick your finger to get the blood out!

 

Pricking your Finger

star trek tricorderThe idea of a blood test is to test your blood. Although there is a ten million pound prize to develop a Star trek like device and some worthy finalists with some interesting prototypes none of these devices will detect much more than one or two analytes. To test your blood, your skin will need to have a hole made in it by something called a “lancet”, otherwise known as  a “finger pricker”.

We trialled 5 different lancets by different manufacturers – comparison blog on the way – but the winner was the BD High Flow device pictured here.  How does it work? These are single use devices – twist off the protective cap at the end, place the flat edge against your finger, and with the other hand swueeze the indented areas between finger and thumb.

Now you’d be forgiven to think that a little needle pops out and then back in again. This is after all how most lancets work. What makes the BD high flow much better is that a blade is released (and retracts) which will cut more capillaries than just a single needle. It hurts a bit for sure, but you stand more chance of collecting a viable sample.

bdlancethighflow

Prepare for failure!

I didn’t say this was going to be easy did I? Preparation is key – read all of the instructions and the handy hints included in your fingerprick kit before you start. Make sure you have everything laid out and ready. There is roughly a 18% chance that you will not be able to collect a viable sample. If you are unlucky Blue Horizon can either send out another finger prick kit free of charge, send you a postal vacutainer kit or give you a full refund. Blue Horizon can also refer you to a Spire or a Nuffield Hospital to get your blood tested professionally, although the costs may rise.

Problematic Tests

We usually advise to avoid large profiles, liver function tests, potassium or full blood counts. The prospect of poor volume or of clotting is too risky to allow this as a collection method.

To summarise

The good…

  1. Convenient
  2. Money Back Guarantee

The bad…

  1. It might not work
  2. Limited range of tests

The painful…

  1. A blade will slice some capillaries
  2. Some people may get a little bruising

Any questions, call team blue on 0800 999 1110

Have fun, Paul.

 

About Paul Harris

Entreprenurse founder of Blue Horizon Medicals, Editor of Bloodtests.uk - aiming to get private blood test access to 1 billion people wordwide by 2020, and 6 billion by 2025.

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