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What your lab report really says about your health

Decoding your test results is important to understanding your health status

You visit your primary care physician or health practitioner for your annual physical, and he/she orders blood work as part of the process. Many patients don’t give it a second thought, unless the office calls with less than stellar news.

Even if the test results come back unremarkable, there’s a lot to learn about your current health status by studying the test results. The trick is to know what the tests look for, and what the results mean.

One typical routine blood test is the complete blood count, or CBC, which counts your red and white blood cells, platelets, hemoglobin levels and calculates other values related to these cells. This test can uncover anemia, infection, clotting problems, certain autoimmune issues, and even cancer of the blood. Patients do not have to fast for this test.

The CBC report reports all the different categories and provides the normal range for each category, and highlights if any of the counts are outside the normal range.

Often physicians order tests to determine how the thyroid functions. Why would your physician order thyroid tests? If you complained of unusual chills or hot flashes, constipation or diarrhea, muscle weakness, unusual weight gain, unexplained joint or muscle pain, or excessive fatigue, your thyroid may be checked. An over or under functioning thyroid gland can explain many of the symptoms above.

The T4 test and the TSH test are the two most common thyroid function tests and are usually ordered together. The T4 test is known as the thyroxine test. A high level of T4 may indicate an overactive thyroid, called hyperthyroidism. A high TSH level may indicate that the thyroid gland may be failing because of a problem that is directly affecting the thyroid, (primary hypothyroidism).

Like the CBC above, the lab report from Alverno displays the measurement as well as the normal ranges. It helps the physician eliminate or pinpoint an issue that needs to be addressed and might help in identifying the cause of the symptoms described above.

The third blood test is an analysis of your blood chemistry, called a Basic Metabolic Panel, or BMP. It’s frequently ordered to provide your health practitioner important information about your body’s metabolism. The test consists of nine values that reflect the health of your kidneys, your glucose level, electrolytes, and acid/base balance.

Your Alverno lab tests will report your levels of sodium, glucose (blood sugar), potassium, chloride, calcium, BUN, creatinine, carbon dioxide, and anion gap. You’ll be able to easily determine if your levels are high or low, or in the normal range.

Results can provide your practitioner a window into the world that is you. The BMP can help head off problems such as diabetes, breathing issues, kidney issues, potential for bone density loss, and several others.

It’s important to note that test results in the high or low range do not by themselves indicate the presence of a medical condition. They should be used to initiate an in-depth discussion between you and your provider and the development of a plan for further investigation if needed.

Alverno Laboratories partners with physicians, hospitals, and clinics to conduct testing that will detect disease in symptomatic as well as asymptomatic patients. Accurate testing is critical for all patients, especially pregnant women, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems from other medical issues.

Healthcare providers need a plan for the timely testing of illness and disease to determine the proper course of action. Alverno uses the most up-to-date technology on blood, urine, tissue and stool to help identify disease causing agents as quickly as possible. Laboratorians are trained to test samples, record data, and provide accurate results. Over 26 hospitals in Northwest Indiana, Chicago and its suburbs, trust Alverno Laboratories to deliver accurate test results in a timely fashion.