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Tips for a Successful Blood Draw
Posted: Sep 6th, 2016 at 12:00AM
If you have been to a clinic or lab before and had the phlebotomist stick you more than once for a blood draw, you may have been told that you are a "difficult stick." This can happen to people for quite a few different reasons, including small or deep veins, rolling veins, dehydration, collapsing veins, constricted vessels, and inexperience for the drawing technician. Today we will discuss what you as the patient can do to create a better chance of a successful draw as well as what blood draws are used for and who can perform them.
What is a blood draw?
A blood draw is needed for many different types of tests that your doctor, school, or work may require. They can provide information on your immunity levels, if you have a disease or a diseases progress, and the level of certain things in your blood. These tests may be blood titers, checking for diseases like STDs, or checking the levels of hormones or cholesterol in your body to name a few.
A blood draw is typically performed in a doctor's office or clinic, or in a dedicated lab like a Quest Diagnostics or Labcorp. The person drawing your blood will be a medical professional that is trained in venipuncture (accessing a vein with a needle) and may be any of a number of professionals including phlebotomists, medical assistants, and nurses.
A blood draw should only take a few minutes to perform. The medical staff will take a look at your inner elbow area and feel for a good vein. They sometimes may put a tight rubber or latex band called a tourniquet tightly around your arm to help the veins stand out while feeling your arm. The medical staff is looking for a vein that feels like a good candidate for a blood draw, not a vein that looks the best. This is important, because even if you have a vein that you can see that may look good to you, it many not be the best vein to draw blood from.
If the medical staff does not see a vein that will work for a blood draw, they may take blood from another location. Depending on the protocols of the lab, clinic, or doctor's office, they may be able to do a blood draw from the top of the hands, wrists, and other areas on the arms.
Small, deep, or rolling veins
If you have ever had a lab draw where the phlebotomist told you that you have small, deep, or rolling veins (veins that tend to move away from the needle during a blood draw), the best option for your next blood draw is to make sure you tell the phlebotomist that you have these possible issues before the blood draw begins. This will help them use different techniques such as anchoring an unexpected rolling vein or looking for deeper veins to draw from. They may also be able to use different techniques, like applying a warm compress, if allowed by their lab to help them access the vein easier.
Once a vein is accessed, remember where the vessel was accessed and what techniques were used. This information will be helpful to inform your phlebotomist during your next blood draw.
Dehydration and collapsing veins
Dehydration is a common problem for people anytime of the year. Your veins contain much of the fluids in your body, so if you haven't had much to drink the day of your draw, those little fluid filled vessels will not be as easy to access and are more likely to collapse flat when a needle is inserted.
The solution to this issue is simple: drink plenty of water before your blood draw. Start drinking plenty of water the morning of your draw, and in the waiting room before your draw. You don't need to drink so much that you are uncomfortable, but enough that you are urinating a light straw color. This indicates that you are well hydrated and will decrease your chances of having a vein collapse during your blood draw.
Constricted vessels can be caused by the issues explained above (dehydration and vein collapse), but can also be related to what you drink. Constriction of the blood vessel is when the vessel is squeezed tight, making the diameter smaller. The main culprit in constricted vessels is caffeine. If you have been hydrating yourself with three cups of coffee before your blood draw, you may be hydrated, but all that caffeine constricts the blood vessels making for a more difficult blood draw. Other common sources of caffeine are sodas and energy drinks.
Nicotine is a stimulant that also causes blood vessel constriction in the body. It doesn't matter what form the nicotine comes in: cigarettes, vape, nicotine patch, ect., they all lead to the same outcome. Constricted vessels and a harder blood draw.
The experience of the person performing the blood draw can also play a part in your successful blood draw. A blood draw is both an art and a science. Every person's blood vessels are different. Your veins may be bigger or smaller, deeper or shallower, mobile (rolling veins) or stationary. Each person performing a blood draw may have their own techniques and differing experience levels as well.
Always remember, if you are not comfortable with the person who is attempting a blood draw you can always request a different or more experienced person. Also, if the phlebotomist is not comfortable performing the blood draw after assessing your veins, they may bring another qualified person in to perform the blood draw. If you are in a doctor's office or clinic you may also ask to have your blood draw performed at a stand alone lab location if you are more comfortable.
Keep in mind that most blood draws are a simple process that should only take you a few minutes to complete. The issues explained above do not occur in most for most of the population, or may occur once and not again during future blood draws.
At e7 Health, we can perform all of your lab work for school, work, or as part of your physical exam. Our staff is well trained in the techniques and bedside manner needed for your successful and worry-free blood draw experience. Call or schedule your appointment online today.