Specimen Processing

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Three important characteristics of specimens and test requests:

  • Urgency: May be requested routine or urgent turnaround time.
  • Time dependency: Specimens degrade over time and some tests require byzantine specifications including stability, so they must be performed accordingly.
  • Irreplaceability: Some specimens are difficult or impossible to replace because they were obtained:by invasive methods as part of a timed procedure through significant inconvenience to the patient

Types of Specimens

Timed urinalysis

Time urinalsis is used to measure the rate at which a substance is excreted, usually over a 12 or 24-hour period. A large container is used for collection and a preservative may be required. A timed urine sample, such as a 24-hour urine collection, can be difficult for the patient to collect accurately and hard to replace.


Cerebospinal Fluid: Fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Synovial fluid: Fluid that fills the spaces between bones.

Amniotic fluid: Fluid surrounding the fetus.

Pericardial Fluid: Fluid surrounding the heart.

Peritoneal fluid: Fluid lining the abdominal cavity.

Pleural fluid: Fluid that surrounds the lungs.


Most of the laboratory errors that injure patients happen during pre-analytic phase of testing -- specimen collection, transportation and processing. Common errors include:

  1. Incorrect collection container
  2. Mislabeling of specimens or requisitions
  3. Incorrect or incomplete requisitions
  4. Improper Storage
  5. Prioritization erros
  6. Data entry errors
  7. Misaliquoting of specimens
  8. Incorrect routing
  9. Incorrect storage

Protected Health Information

PHI should not be accessed or discussed outside the scope of assigned work. PHI is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA).