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Venipuncture

Definition

Venipuncture is the collection of blood from a vein, usually for laboratory testing.

Alternative Names

Blood-draw; Phlebotomy

How the test is performed

Blood is drawn from a vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The site is cleaned with germ-killing medicine (antiseptic). The health care provider wraps an elastic band around the upper arm to apply pressure to the area and make the vein swell with blood.

Next, the health care provider gently inserts a needle into the vein. The blood collects into an airtight vial or tube attached to the needle. The elastic band is removed from your arm.

Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.

In infants or young children, a sharp tool called a lancet may be used to puncture the skin and make it bleed. The blood collects onto a slide or test strip. A bandage may be placed over the area if there is any bleeding.

How to prepare for the test

How you prepare depends on the specific blood test you are having done. Many tests do not require any special preparation. Other times, you may be told to avoid food or drinks or limit certain medications before the test.

How the test will feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, you may feel moderate pain, or only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

Why the test is performed

Blood is made up of two parts:

  • Fluid (plasma or serum)
  • Cells

Plasma contains various substances including glucose, electrolytes, proteins, and water. Serum is the fluid part that remains after the blood is allowed to clot in a test tube. Specifically, serum is the fluid part of blood after a substance called fibrinogen has been removed by clotting.

Cells in the blood include red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Blood helps move oxygen, nutrients, waste products, and other materials through the body. It helps control body temperature, fluid balance, and the body's acid-base balance.

Tests on blood or parts of blood may give your doctor important clues about your health.

Normal Values

Normal results vary with the specific test.

What abnormal results mean

Abnormal results vary with the specific test.

What the risks are

Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

Review Date: 8/31/2011
Reviewed By: A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine (5/30/2011).
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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