Specimen Collection Information

Interpath Laboratory utilizes the latest and most appropriate technology to analyze laboratory data to provide the best clinical information for you and for your patient; however, none of this information would be available without the proper collection and processing of patient specimens. This section supplies the needed supplemental information in conjunction with our extensive test directory so that collection and processing can lend the first step to providing our clients and patients with the best clinical information available.

Specimen Labeling & Transporting

All specimens (blood, body fluids, cultures, cytology and surgical) must have a first and last name on the specimen container, accompanied by a secondary identifier. Examples of acceptable identifiers include but are not limited to: date of birth, medical record number, social security number, requisition number, accession number, or unique random number. A location (e.g., hospital room number) is not an acceptable identifier. The name or identifiers on the specimen(s) must match exactly the name or identifiers on the requisition. Test results may be delayed if labeling discrepancies occur. All specimens must be accompanied with a completed Interpath requisition and transported at the required temperature in bio-hazard zip-lock bags or other appropriate transport containers.

Minimum Volumes

In circumstances where preferred volumes listed in the test directory section cannot be obtained, please contact the laboratory at (800) 700-6891 or (541) 278-4730 for the minimum acceptable volume.

Blood Collection

Draw blood into the appropriate collection container as indicated in the test directory section for each specific test. Immediately after drawing the blood in tubes with additives or anticoagulants, mix gently by inverting the tube(s) at least 10 times.

Serum or Plasma

Many people may not know the difference between Serum specimens and Plasma specimens. They may look similar but are very different. Below is a handy printout that you can use to post near your workstation to keep your memory fresh when working with these tubes.
  • Serum is a clear yellowish fluid that remains from blood plasma after clotting factors (fibrinogen, prothrombin ect.) that have been used in the formation of a clot. The cells are usually glued together by the clot formation. In serum separator tubes the serum stays above the gel while the cells are forced below the gel after centrifugation.
  • Plasma is a clear yellowish fluid that still contains all of the clotting factors and have not been solidified into clot. The cells are also not glued together and can be easily re-suspended by gently rocking the plasma tube from side to side. In plasma separator tubes the plasma stays above the gel while the cells are force below the gel after centrifugation.

Whole Blood or Plasma

Certain tests require whole blood, e.g. CBC and ESR; or plasma, e.g. PTH. In these cases, blood is drawn into a tube containing a specific anticoagulant. Inverting the tube 10 times gently mixes the blood and anticoagulant. Whole Blood is typically left in the original tube. Refer to the specimen requirement section for specific test requirements. Plasma is obtained by centrifuging the tube approximately 10 minutes. Certain test(s) require the plasma to be carefully separated from the red blood cells, making sure the specimen does not contain red blood cells. The use of a transfer pipette is the preferred method, versus tilting the original tube and pouring the plasma into an aliquot tube. The presence of cells may give spurious results.

Please note the type of plasma on the pour-off tube:

“P-Hep” = Heparinized Plasma
“P-EDTA” = EDTA Plasma


Many specimens require centrifugation and removal of the serum or plasma from the cells or other special handling. These procedures assure specimen integrity in the event that transport to the laboratory is delayed more than two hours. If you require a centrifuge or have questions concerning specimen processing or transport, please contact your nearest Interpath Service Center or call our main laboratory at (800) 700-6891 or (541) 278-4730.

Transporting Specimens

How to Prepare the Specimens for Transport

Use Universal, Standard Precautions as required by the OSHA Blood Borne Pathogen Standard
  •  Package specimens in a leak-proof container known as the primary container, such as the test tube or urine cup.
  • The primary container should be enclosed in a secondary, leak-proof container such as a specimen bag.
  • Absorbent material sufficient to absorb the entire contents of the inner packaging must be included in the secondary container.
  • Place the unfolded requisition form in the bag facing outward.
  • Determine the infectious nature of the specimens to be transported. Also determine if other materials are present that the Department of Transportation may consider hazardous, such as formaldehyde or dry ice.
  • Store at the temperature indicated for that specimen according to the test specifications. 


  • Do not submit specimens with needles attached.
  • If you submit a specimen in a syringe, please use plastic syringes capped with a non-sharp plug.
  • Package syringes carefully to prevent the plunger from being pushed.

Glass Tubes

  •  Submit specimen in plastic transport tubes unless specifications require a glass tube.
  • When the test requires a glass tube, place in a protective cylinder.
  • Do not use glass tubes for frozen specimens.

Preparing Transport of Ambient, Refrigerated and Frozen Specimens

  • Place the frozen specimen container in the bottom of the lock box.
  • Place a divider on top of the frozen specimens.
  • Place the refrigerated specimens on top of the divider.
  • Place a divider above the refrigerated specimens. Place the ambient specimens on top of the divider.

Preparing Transport Ambient and Refrigerated Specimens:

  •  Place ice packs in the bottom of the lock box.
  •  Place the refrigerated specimens on top of the ice packs.
  • Place a divider* above the refrigerated specimens.
  • Place the ambient specimens on top of the divider

Items That Cannot Be Transported

(For safety reasons, Interpath Laboratories is prohibited by law to transport)
  • Leaking specimens
  • Syringes with needles attached or sharps in any form
  • Specimens not placed in secondary container (Interpath Laboratory bags)
  • Waste of any kind