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Phlebotomy – the drawing of blood – has been practised for centuries and is still one of the most common invasive procedures in health care. Each step in the process of phlebotomy affects the quality of the specimen and is thus important for preventing laboratory error, patient injury and even death. For example, the touch of a finger to verify the location of a vein before insertion of the needle increases the chance that a specimen will be contaminated. This can cause false blood culture results, prolong hospitalization, delay diagnosis and cause unnecessary use of antibiotics. Jostling and jarring of test tubes in transit can lyse or break open red blood cells, causing false laboratory results. Clerical errors in completing forms and identifying patients are common, costly and preventable. Other adverse effects for patients are common; they include bruising at the site of puncture, fainting, nerve damage and haematomas. These guidelines outline the simple but important steps that can make phlebotomy safer for patients.

Click here to download “WHO guidelines on drawing blood: best practices in phlebotomy”


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