what to expect
What to expect before the blood test
Blood tests are very common and most people will have a number of tests during their lifetime; nevertheless, it can be a little scary and some people do get very nervous about having a blood test. If you are nervous or have a fear of needles, talk to your doctor or nurse about this; they will endeavour to make you feel as comfortable as possible but it will help if they know that you are feeling a little anxious about the test. You can also take somebody with you if this will make you feel more comfortable.
Some blood tests require you to fast for a period of time before the test; if this is the case, you will not be permitted to eat anything or drink anything other than water for the set period of time. Your doctor will discuss this with you and will give you all the details about your test when you arrange the appointment to have your blood test done; in most cases, fasting should last for between 8 and 12 hours before the test.
Before the test, your doctor or nurse will explain what is going to happen; if you have already had lots of blood tests, this may not be necessary but it may be helpful for those who have not had a test before.
In most cases, no preparation is needed and the doctor or nurse will begin taking the sample as soon as you are ready and comfortable. The doctor or nurse may wipe your arm with an antiseptic wipe before they put the needle in but this is now always done.
What to expect during the blood test
During the test, the doctor or nurse will take a sample of your blood so that it can be sent away for analysis; they will do this using a needle, which is attached to a syringe. They will usually place a tourniquet around the top of your arm; this will feel tight but it should not be painful; this is done to decrease the speed the blood flows through the arm so that the veins swell; this makes it easier for the doctor to insert the needle into the vein. Once the needle has been inserted, the doctor will pull back the syringe so that the blood collects in the syringe. The doctor will continue to take blood until they have collected enough for analysis; once they have finished, they will take the needle out of the vein and place a cotton wool pad over the arm to stem the bleeding.
Blood tests may be slightly uncomfortable but they should not be painful; when the needle first pricks the skin and then goes into the vein, this may be a little painful but this should subside very quickly. During the test, when the blood is being collected, you should not experience any pain.
If you feel at all faint or dizzy during the blood test, you should tell the doctor or nurse; they may advise you to take a minute to lie down and they will try to make you feel more comfortable.
What to expect after the blood test
After the blood test, you may find that your arm bleeds a little; your doctor or nurse will hold a cotton wool pad over the site of the wound in order to stem the bleeding and prevent bruising; the bleeding should stop fairly quickly. After the pad has been removed, a plaster may be placed on the wound to stop infection and prevent further bleeding. You should not experience any pain after the test but your arm may feel a little tender and you may notice some mild bruising.
Once the sample has been collected, it will be put into a special bottle and labelled with your name; it will then be sent to the laboratory so that it can be analysed.
The results will be sent back to your GP or to the hospital once they are ready; your doctor will discuss how and when you can get your results with you when you have the blood test. Some doctors give blood results out over the telephone, while others prefer patients to come and see them to give them their results. If you are in hospital, your consultant will usually discuss your test results with you when they have been sent back from the laboratory.
If you are worried about test results or you are scared of going to see the doctor to get the results, you can take a relative or friend with you for support. Your doctor will explain the test results to you and then explain your options; if you have got the all-clear you may be advised to continue seeing your doctor for regular check-ups; if there is a problem arising from the results, your doctor will discuss your treatment plan with you and they will usually refer you to a specialist.
Getting results can be stressful and very scary for some people, especially if they are being tested for a serious illness or disease. If you are struggling to cope or are worried about the outcome of the tests, do not panic or struggle in silence; talk to your GP and those close to you. There are services available to help people cope with serious illnesses, such as cancer and HIV and your GP will be able to give you information about the help available to you.
If you notice that the area where blood was taken starts to get irritated or inflamed or becomes red, arrange to see your GP as this may indicate that the wound has been infected.
Blood Test Guide
- Blood Tests
- Types of blood tests
- what to expect
- What are the risks of blood tests?
- What do blood tests show?
- Specific Blood Tests