Medical laboratory testing plays a crucial role in the early detection, diagnosis and treatment of disease in patients. Early detection through lab testing, allows patients and doctors to adopt proactive measures in a timely manner, which could save the patient time, money, and possibly sickness in the future. In other words, lab testing is one of the first steps into creating a personalized and quality health plan.
An estimated 60 to 70 percent of all decisions regarding a patient’s diagnosis, treatment, hospital admission and discharge are based on laboratory results, and so much of a patient’s experience in the healthcare industry depends on these tests. In this article, laboratory testing procedures will be made clear to you, so that you may understand one of the most important parts of healthcare, and why it is important to get tested regularly.
How can Lab Tests help in healthcare?
Laboratory tests play a fundamental role in Personalized & Concierge healthcare. They can assist doctors in:
Achieving Accurate Diagnosis
Laboratory tests can help doctors identify the cause of a patient's symptoms. For instance, a blood test can assist in diagnosing an infection, a urine analysis can aid in diagnosing a urinary tract infection, and an X-ray can help diagnose a fracture.
Monitoring Progress and Treatment Effectiveness
Laboratory tests enable doctors to determine if a treatment is working effectively or if adjustments are needed. For instance, a blood test can help monitor blood sugar levels in a patient with diabetes, a urine analysis can monitor kidney function in a patient with chronic kidney disease, and a CT scan can help monitor the progression of a tumor in a cancer patient.
Early Detection of Diseases and Health Conditions
Laboratory tests can help doctors detect diseases and health conditions before they manifest symptoms. For example, a blood test can aid in early detection of high cholesterol, a urine analysis can help detect a urinary tract infection, and a mammogram can assist in early detection of breast cancer.
Which are Routine Laboratory Tests?
Routine blood testing is one way to keep track of your overall health and tell your provider what is happening inside your body. Getting tested routinely can help you prevent chronic illness by early detection or reduce the chances of disease progression by routine monitoring. Common examples of routine lab testing include:
Complete Blood Count (CBC): Provides information about the quantity and quality of blood cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Helps diagnose anemia, infections, and coagulation disorders.
Lipid Profile: Measures levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides in the blood. It's essential for assessing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Fasting Blood Glucose: Determines blood glucose levels after an overnight fast. It is crucial for diagnosing diabetes and evaluating glycemic control.
Liver Function Tests: Includes tests such as measurement of bilirubin, liver enzymes (alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase), alkaline phosphatase, and albumin. Evaluates liver function and aids in diagnosing liver diseases.
Kidney Function Tests: Involves measuring creatinine, urea, and other markers to assess kidney function. Helps detect kidney disorders and monitor the progression of chronic kidney diseases.
Serum Electrolytes: Analyzes levels of sodium, potassium, calcium, and other electrolytes in the blood. Is crucial for assessing electrolyte balance and diagnosing electrolyte-related disorders.
Urinalysis: Evaluates the chemical composition and physical characteristics of urine, such as the presence of proteins, glucose, blood, bilirubin, and other substances. Helps detect kidney disorders, infections, and diabetes.
Thyroid Function Tests: Includes measurement of thyroid hormones such as TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), T3, and T4. Helps diagnose thyroid disorders and evaluate thyroid function.
Coagulation Studies: Evaluates the blood's coagulation ability and includes tests such as prothrombin time (PT) and activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT). Essential before surgeries or for patients with coagulation disorders.
Going beyond the basics of prevention
Besides the Routine Lab Testing, there are some markers that have shown being more accurate in the early detection of some diseases -especially Cardiovascular Disease and Inflammation. Unfortunately, these lab tests are not usually covered by insurances, and tend to be more expensive than the routine tests. Good news is: Primary & Concierge Care practices that offer lab discounts (like METSI Care) are capable of indicating these lab tests at a much more affordable rate than what patients would pay out of pocket.
In the traditional insurance-based model, these types of tests are bad for the industry because they can actually detect imbalances early, allowing doctors and patients to take measures to prevent major illness. This is not good for a model whose profit relies on patients being sick to cure them, rather than preventing illness and promoting Longevity. On the contrary, models that focus on prevention like METSI Care’s Primary & Concierge Care, helps the patient take proactive measures to tackle their health issues, instead of reacting when they already become a major concern.
The importance of laboratory tests for early detection of Cardiovascular Diseases
This group of accurate testing has revolutionized the way doctors and patients approach prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 32% of all deaths in the country. Prevention is the best way to reduce the risk of CVDs. This can be achieved through lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and not smoking.
These tests can help identify CVD risk factors, such as high cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar levels. They can also help detect damage to the arteries, such as plaque buildup.
Some examples of laboratory tests for CVD detection are:
Total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides: These tests measure blood lipid levels. High levels of LDL cholesterol, also known as "bad" cholesterol, can increase the risk of CVDs. LDL cholesterol can build up on the walls of your arteries and raise your chances of heart disease. Also, keep in mind that high triglyceride level has been associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease.Everyone over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol levels checked at least once every five years. A lipid profile blood test is typically used as a screening test. Experts recommend that men aged 35 and up and women aged 45 and up be screened for lipid disorders more frequently.
High-sensitivity CRP test (Cardiac CRP) :The high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) test detects lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood. This protein is an indicator of the overall level of inflammation in the body, and small amounts detected through high sensitivity tests are indicators of inflammation in the cardiovascular system. Individuals who do not yet have heart disease can use the hs-CRP test to determine their risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
Apolipoprotein B (ApoB): This protein is found in LDLs. High levels of ApoB can be a sign of an increased risk of CVDs. Your Doctor may request this lab test to assess the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD), sometimes for monitoring treatment to lower cholesterol levels, or to diagnose a rare hereditary deficiency of apolipoprotein B (Apo B). The test is typically requested when there is a personal or family history of heart disease and/or elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels, aiming to determine the risk of developing CVD. Altered concentrations of Apo B can be observed in various situations such as:
Nephrotic syndrome (kidney disease).
Pregnancy (concentrations temporarily rise and return to normal after childbirth).
Lipoprotein (a): This protein can be a sign of higher risk of CVDs, even in people with normal LDL cholesterol levels. Lp(a) is not routinely requested, nor is it part of the lipid profile. However, it can be requested alongside other cardiac risk markers for a holistic assessment of cardiovascular risk.
Coronary calcium score: This test uses a computed tomography (CT) scan to measure the amount of calcium in the coronary arteries. Calcium is a sign of plaque buildup in the arteries.
Who should get laboratory tests for CVD detection?
People with CVD risk factors, such as family history, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes, should talk to their doctor about how often they should get laboratory tests.
People without CVD risk factors may also get laboratory tests for early detection of CVDs. The frequency with which they should get these tests will depend on their age and other risk factors.
Early detection of CVDs is important for improving health outcomes. Laboratory tests can help identify CVDs at an early stage, when treatment is more effective.
The importance of laboratory tests for early detection of Inflammatory diseases
Inflammatory diseases are a group of diseases that are characterized by chronic inflammation of the body. Inflammation is a natural response of the body to infection or damage, but when it is chronic it can cause serious health problems.
Early detection of inflammatory diseases is important for improving health outcomes. Laboratory tests can help identify inflammatory diseases at an early stage, when treatment is most effective. Some examples of laboratory tests for the detection of inflammatory diseases are:
C-reactive protein (CRP): This test measures inflammation in the body. The C-reactive protein test can be used to help detect or monitor inflammation in acute or chronic conditions, including:a) Bacterial or viral infections,b) Inflammatory bowel disease, a disorder of the intestines that includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, c) Autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and vasculitis d)Lung diseases, such as asthma.
Homocysteine: Homocysteine is an amino acid that can damage the arteries. When the doctor suspects a deficiency in vitamin B6, B12, or folate; if you have had a heart attack or stroke and do not have classic risk factors such as alterations in the lipid profile, Doctors may suggest to perform this lab test. Elevated levels of homocysteine have been associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease (deposits of fat in the peripheral arteries), and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arterial walls).
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR): ESR is a test that measures the speed at which red blood cells sediment in a test tube. Elevated ESR levels can be a sign of an inflammatory disease. It may be necessary to request this laboratory analysis to detect the presence of inflammation due to causes such as infections, tumors, or autoimmune diseases; to monitor specific disorders such as temporal arteritis, systemic vasculitis, polymyalgia rheumatica, or rheumatoid arthritis.
Cortisol: Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Elevated cortisol levels can be a sign of stress or an inflammatory disease. It would be necessary to perform a cortisol test to aid in the diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome or primary (Addison's disease) or secondary adrenal insufficiency; to detect disorders affecting the pituitary gland or adrenal glands.
Who should get laboratory tests for the detection of Inflammatory Diseases?
Individuals aiming to proactively prevent diseases like Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, Neurodegenerative Disease, and Autoimmune Diseases should consider getting these tests, especially if they have risk factors such as a family history or exposure to specific environmental factors or existing medical conditions.
Medical laboratory testing is a key component of Healthcare, playing an important role in disease detection, accurate diagnosis, and effective treatment. These tests provide critical insights into a patient's health, allowing for timely proactive measures that may save time, money, and prevent future health complications. Laboratory testing is a critical component in developing Personalized, High-Quality Healthcare plans.
At METSI Care, we are committed to the well-being of our patients. We firmly believe in the power of prevention and early detection to fight health issues from the very beginning. This will not only allow you to have control over your health but also reduce future economic costs, as the prevention and early treatment of diseases represent substantial savings to your economy.
We look forward to seeing you in our next blog post next week, where we will continue delving into these medical concerns.