Blood Alcohol Level: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information

 

What is a blood alcohol test?

A blood alcohol test measures the level of Alcohol in your blood. Most people are more familiar with the breathalyzer, a test often used by police officers on people suspected of drunk driving. While a breathalyzer gives fast results, it is not as accurate as measuring alcohol in the blood.

Alcohol, also known as ethanol, is the main ingredient of alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine, and liquor. When you have an alcoholic drink, it is absorbed into your bloodstream and processed by the liver. Your liver can process about one drink an hour. One drink is usually defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of whiskey.

If you are drinking faster than your liver can process the alcohol, you may feel the effects of drunkenness, also called intoxication. These include behavioral changes and impaired judgment. The effects of alcohol can vary from person to person, depending on a variety of factors such as age, weight, gender, and how much food you ate before drinking.

Other names: blood alcohol level test, ethanol test, ethyl alcohol, blood alcohol content

What is it used for?

A blood alcohol test may be used to find out if you:

  • Have been drinking and driving. In the United States, .08 percent blood alcohol level is the legal alcohol limit for drivers who are aged 21 and over. Drivers younger than 21 are not allowed to have any alcohol in their system when driving.
  • Are legally drunk. The legal alcohol limit for drinking in public varies from state to state.
  • Have been drinking while in a treatment program that prohibits drinking.
  • Have alcohol poisoning, a life-threatening condition that happens when your blood alcohol level gets very high. Alcohol poisoning can seriously affect basic body functions, including breathing, heart rate, and temperature.

Teens and young adults are at higher risk for binge drinking, which can cause alcohol poisoning. Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that raises the blood alcohol level within a short period of time. Though it varies from person to person, binge drinking is usually defined as four drinks for women and five drinks for men in a two-hour period.

Young children may get alcohol poisoning from drinking household products that contain alcohol, such as mouthwash, hand sanitizer, and certain cold medicines.

Why do I need a blood alcohol test?

You may need a blood alcohol test if you are suspected of drunk driving and/or have symptoms of intoxication. These include:

  • Difficulty with balance and coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Mood changes
  • Poor judgment

You or your child may also need this test if there are symptoms of alcohol poisoning. In addition to the above symptoms, alcohol poisoning can cause:

  • Confusion
  • Irregular breathing
  • Seizures
  • Low body temperature

What happens during a blood alcohol test?

A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This process usually takes less than five minutes.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

You don’t need any special preparations for a blood alcohol test.

Are there any risks to the test?

There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.

What do the results mean?

Blood alcohol level results may be given in different ways, including percentage of blood alcohol content (BAC). Typical results are below.

  • Sober: 0.0 percent BAC
  • Legally intoxicated: .08 percent BAC
  • Very impaired: .08–0.40 percent BAC. At this blood alcohol level, you may have difficulty walking and speaking. Other symptoms may include confusion, nausea, and drowsiness.
  • At risk for serious complications: Above .40 percent BAC. At this blood alcohol level, you may be at risk for coma or death.

The timing of this test can affect the accuracy of the results. A blood alcohol test is only accurate within 6–12 hours after your last drink. If you have questions or concerns about your results, you may want to talk to a health care provider and/or a lawyer.

Is there anything else I need to know about a blood alcohol test?

A police officer may ask you to take a breathalyzer test if you are suspected of drunk driving. If you refuse to take a breathalyzer, or think the test wasn’t accurate, you may ask for or be asked to take a blood alcohol test.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions [updated 2017 Jun 8; cited 2018 Mar 8]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm
  2. ClinLab Navigator [Internet]. ClinLab Navigator; c2018. Alcohol (Ethanol, Ethyl Alcohol) [cited 2018 Mar 8]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: http://www.clinlabnavigator.com/alcohol-ethanol-ethyl-alcohol.html
  3. Drugs.com [Internet]. Drugs.com; c2000–2018. Alcohol Intoxication [updated 2018 Mar 1; cited 2018 Mar 8]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.drugs.com/cg/alcohol-intoxication.html
  4. Hinkle J, Cheever K. Brunner & Suddarth’s Handbook of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests. 2nd Ed, Kindle. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; c2014. Ethyl Alcohol Levels (Blood, Urine, Breath, Saliva) (Alcohol, EtOH); 278 p.
  5. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. Washington D.C.: American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2018. Ethanol [updated 2018 Mar 8; cited 2018 Mar 8]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/tests/ethanol
  6. Mayo Clinic: Mayo Medical Laboratories [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1995–2018. Test ID: ALC: Ethanol, Blood: Clinical and Interpretive [cited 2018 Mar 8]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Clinical+and+Interpretive/8264
  7. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Alcohol Overdose: The Dangers of Drinking Too Much; 2015 October [cited 2018 Mar 8]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/AlcoholOverdoseFactsheet/Overdosefact.htm
  8. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Drinking Levels Defined [cited 2018 Mar 8]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking
  9. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Blood Tests [cited 2018 Mar 8]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/blood-tests
  10. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2017. Health Encyclopedia: Ethanol (Blood) [cited 2018 Mar 8]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=ethanol_blood
  11. UW Health [Internet]. Madison (WI): University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority; c2018. Blood Alcohol: Results [updated 2017 Oct 9; cited 2018 Mar 8]; [about 8 screens]. Available from: https://www.uwhealth.org/health/topic/medicaltest/blood-alcohol-test/hw3564.html#hw3588
  12. UW Health [Internet]. Madison (WI): University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority; c2018. Blood Alcohol: Test Overview [updated 2017 Oct 9; cited 2018 Mar 8]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.uwhealth.org/health/topic/medicaltest/blood-alcohol-test/hw3564.html
  13. TEUW Health [Internet]. Madison (WI): University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority; c2018. Blood Alcohol: What To Think About [updated 2017 Oct 9; cited 2018 Mar 8]; [about 10 screens].XT Available from: https://www.uwhealth.org/health/topic/medicaltest/blood-alcohol-test/hw3564.html#hw3598
  14. UW Health [Internet]. Madison (WI): University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority; c2018. Blood Alcohol: Why It is Done [updated 2017 Oct 9; cited 2018 Mar 8]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.uwhealth.org/health/topic/medicaltest/blood-alcohol-test/hw3564.html#hw3573

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Why Do I Leak Pee?

Don’t let a little pee hold you back. Here are a few solutions to help control your bladder.

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Aortic Surgery: What Patients Need to Know – Mayo Clinic

In this video, Mayo Clinic heart surgeon Alberto Pochettino, M.D., aortic surgery expert, provides an overview of aortic surgeries to repair aortic disease, and aortic and endovascular aneurysms.

Visit our Aortic Root Surgery page for more information: http://www.mayoclinic.org/aortic-root-surgery/

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C-Peptide Test: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information

 

What is a C-peptide test?

This test measures the level of C-peptide in your blood or urine. C-peptide is a substance made in the pancreas, along with insulin. Insulin is a hormone that controls the body’s glucose (blood sugar) levels. Glucose is your body’s main source of energy. If your body doesn’t make the right amount of insulin, it may be a sign of diabetes.

C-peptide and insulin are released from the pancreas at the same time and in about equal amounts. So a C-peptide test can show how much insulin your body is making. This test can be a good way to measure insulin levels because C-peptide tends to stay in the body longer than insulin.

Other names: insulin C-peptide, connecting peptide insulin, proinsulin C-peptide

What is it used for?

A C-peptide test is often used to help tell the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. With type 1 diabetes, your pancreas makes little to no insulin, and little or no C-peptide. With type 2 diabetes, the body makes insulin, but doesn’t use it well. This can cause C-peptide levels to be higher than normal.

The test may also be used to:

Why do I need a C-peptide test?

You may need a C-peptide test if your health care provider thinks you have diabetes, but is unsure whether it is type 1 or type 2. You may also need a C-peptide test if you have symptoms of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Symptoms include:

What happens during a C-peptide test?

A C-peptide test is usually given as a blood test. During a blood test, a health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.

C-peptide can also be measured in urine. Your health care provider may ask you to collect all urine passed in a 24-hour period. This is called a 24-hour urine sample test. For this test, your health care provider or a laboratory professional will give a container in which to collect your urine and instructions on how to collect and store your samples. A 24-hour urine sample test generally includes the following steps:

  • Empty your bladder in the morning and flush that urine away. Record the time.
  • For the next 24 hours, save all your urine passed in the container provided.
  • Store your urine container in the refrigerator or a cooler with ice.
  • Return the sample container to your health provider’s office or the laboratory as instructed.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

You may need to fast (not eat or drink) for 8–12 hours before a C-peptide blood test. If your health care provider has ordered a C-peptide urine test, be sure to ask if there are any specific instructions you need to follow.

Are there any risks to the test?

There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.

There are no known risks to a urine test.

What do the results mean?

A low level of C-peptide can mean your body isn’t making enough insulin. It may be a sign of one of the following conditions:

It may also be a sign that your diabetes treatment is not working well.

A high level of C-peptide can mean your body is making too much insulin. It may be a sign of one of the following conditions:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Insulin resistance, a condition in which the body doesn’t respond the right way to insulin. It causes the body to make too much insulin, raising your blood sugar to very high levels.
  • Cushing’s syndrome, a disorder in which your body makes too much of a hormone called cortisol.
  • A tumor of the pancreas

If you have questions about your results, talk to your health care provider.

Is there anything else I need to know about a C-peptide test?

A C-peptide test can provide important information about the type of diabetes you have and whether or not your diabetes treatment is working well. But it is not used to diagnose diabetes. Other tests, such as blood glucose and urine glucose, are used to screen and diagnose diabetes.

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Olympic Sprinter Shares Training Secrets

From the WebMD Archives:

Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix talks about her training regimen, mental preparation, and favorite foods.
Discover how Olympic athletes stay fit. Plus, get food and fitness tips for the everyday Olympian.
http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/summer-olympics-12/default.htm

Follow WebMD here:
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Reviewed By: Michael W. Smith, June 2012
SOURCES: Team USA Olympic Athletes, Uinterview, http://www.uinterview.com
© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Hemifacial Spasm – Mayo Clinic

Dr. Michael Link, a Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon, describes symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options for hemifacial spasm. Visit http://mayocl.in/2zQJ9pE for more information on care at Mayo Clinic or to request an appointment.

Hemifacial spasm is a rare disorder which typically starts as a faint twitching around one eye, and over time it spreads to involve the entire face. This is typically in the form of a characteristic, rhythmic twitching. Hemifacial spasm is typically not painful, but can interfere with daily life, such as social situations.

Dr. Link discusses specific tests that are sometimes used to diagnose hemifacial spasm. He also outlines various treatment options, including medications, injections and surgery.

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Medium Intensity 10-Minute Core Workout

Strengthen your core with these 10 exercises that include in and outs, bicycles, scissors, leg lifts, and wide-leg sit ups.

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Syphilis Tests: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information

 

What are syphilis tests?

Syphilis is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It is a bacterial infection spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex with an infected person. Syphilis develops in stages that can last for weeks, months, or even years. The stages may be separated by long periods of apparent good health.

Syphilis usually starts with a small, painless sore, called a chancre, on the genitals, anus, or mouth. In the next stage, you may have flu-like symptoms and/or a rash. Later stages of syphilis can damage the brain, heart, spinal cord, and other organs. Syphilis tests can help diagnose syphilis in the early stages of infection, when the disease is easiest to treat.

Other names: rapid plasma reagin (RPR), venereal disease Research laboratory (VDRL), fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption (FTA-ABS) test, agglutination assay (TPPA), darkfield microscopy

What are they used for?

Syphilis tests are used to screen for and diagnose syphilis.

Screening tests for syphilis include:

  • Rapid plasma reagin (RPR), a syphilis blood test that looks for antibodies to the syphilis bacteria. Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system to fight foreign substances, such as bacteria.
  • Venereal disease research laboratory (VDRL) test, which also checks for syphilis antibodies. A VDRL test can be done on blood or spinal fluid.

If a screening test comes back positive, you will need more testing to rule out or confirm a syphilis diagnosis. Most of these follow up tests will also look for syphilis antibodies. Sometimes, a healthcare provider will use a test that looks for actual syphilis bacteria, instead of the antibodies. Tests that look for the actual bacteria are used less often because they can only be done in specialized labs by specially trained health care professionals.

Why do I need a syphilis test?

You may need a syphilis test if your sexual partner has been diagnosed with syphilis and/or you have symptoms of the disease. Symptoms usually appear about two to three weeks after infection and include:

  • Small, painless sore (chancre) on the genitals, anus, or mouth
  • Rough, red rash, usually on the palms of the hands or the bottom of the feet
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Swollen glands
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Hair loss

Even if you don’t have symptoms, you may need a test if you are at a higher risk of infection. Risk factors include having:

  • Multiple sex partners
  • A partner with multiple sex partners
  • Unprotected sex (sex without using a condom)
  • An HIV/AIDS infection
  • Another sexually transmitted disease, such as gonorrhea

You may also need this test if you are pregnant. Syphilis can be passed from a mother to her unborn baby. A syphilis infection can cause serious, and sometimes deadly, complications to infants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all pregnant women get tested early in pregnancy. Women who have risk factors for syphilis should be tested again in the third trimester of pregnancy (28–32 weeks) and again at delivery.

What happens during a syphilis test?

A syphilis test is usually in the form of a blood test. During a syphilis blood test, a health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.

More advanced stages of syphilis can affect the brain and spinal cord. If your symptoms show your disease might be in a more advanced stage, your health care provider may order a syphilis test on your cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is a clear liquid found in your brain and spinal cord.

For this test, your CSF will be collected through a procedure called a lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap. During the procedure:

  • You will lie on your side or sit on an exam table.
  • A health care provider will clean your back and inject an anesthetic into your skin, so you won’t feel pain during the procedure. Your provider may put a numbing cream on your back before this injection.
  • Once the area on your back is completely numb, your provider will insert a thin, hollow needle between two vertebrae in your lower spine. Vertebrae are the small backbones that make up your spine.
  • Your provider will withdraw a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid for testing. This will take about five minutes.
  • You’ll need to stay very still while the fluid is being withdrawn.
  • Your provider may ask you to lie on your back for an hour or two after the procedure. This may prevent you from getting a headache afterward.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

You don’t need any special preparations for a syphilis blood test. For a lumbar puncture, you may be asked to empty your bladder and bowels before the test.

Are there any risks to the test?

There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.

If you had a lumbar puncture, you may have pain or tenderness in your back where the needle was inserted. You may also get a headache after the procedure.

What do the results mean?

If your screening results were negative or normal, it means no syphilis infection was found. Since antibodies can take a couple of weeks to develop in response to a bacterial infection, you may need another screening test if you think you were exposed to the infection. Ask your health care provider about when or if you need to be re-tested.

If your screening tests show a positive result, you will have more testing to rule out or confirm a syphilis diagnosis. If these tests confirm you have syphilis, you will probably be treated with penicillin, a type of antibiotic. Most early-stage syphilis infections are completely cured after antibiotic treatment. Later-stage syphilis is also treated with antibiotics. Antibiotic treatment for later-stage infections can stop the disease from getting worse, but it can’t undo damage already done.

If you have questions about your results, or about syphilis, talk to your health care provider.

Is there anything else I need to know about syphilis tests?

If you are diagnosed with syphilis, you need to tell your sexual partner, so he or she can get tested and treated if necessary.

References

  1. American Pregnancy Association [Internet]. Irving (TX): American Pregnancy Association; c2018. Syphilis [updated 2018 Feb 7; cited 2018 Mar 29]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: http://americanpregnancy.org/womens-health/syphilis
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Syphilis: CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed) [updated 2017 Feb 13; cited 2018 Mar 29]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis-detailed.htm
  3. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. Washington D.C.: American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2018. Syphilis Tests [updated 2018 Mar 29; cited 2018 Mar 29]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/tests/syphilis-tests
  4. Mayo Clinic [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1998–2018. Lumbar puncture (spinal tap): Overview; 2018 Mar 22 [cited 2018 Mar 29]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/lumbar-puncture/about/pac-20394631
  5. Mayo Clinic [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1998–2018. Syphilis: Diagnosis and treatment; 2018 Jan 10 [cited 2018 Mar 29]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/syphilis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351762
  6. Mayo Clinic [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1998–2018. Syphilis: Symptoms and causes; 2018 Jan 10 [cited 2018 Mar 29]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/syphilis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351756
  7. Merck Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co., Inc.; c2018. Syphilis [cited 2018 Mar 29]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/infections/sexually-transmitted-diseases-stds/syphilis
  8. Merck Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co., Inc.; c2018. Tests for Brain, Spinal Cord, and Nerve Disorders [cited 2018 Mar 29]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/brain,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders/diagnosis-of-brain,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders/tests-for-brain,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders
  9. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Blood Tests [cited 2018 Mar 29]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/blood-tests
  10. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Syphilis [cited 2018 Mar 29]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/syphilis
  11. Tsang RSW, Radons SM, Morshed M. Laboratory diagnosis of syphilis: A survey to examine the range of tests used in Canada. Can J Infect Dis Med Microbiol [Internet]. 2011 [cited 2018 Apr 10]; 22(3): 83–87. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3200370
  12. UF Health: University of Florida Health [Internet]. University of Florida; c2018. Syphilis: Overview [updated 2018 Mar 29; cited 2018 Mar 29]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://ufhealth.org/syphilis
  13. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2018. Health Encyclopedia: Rapid Plasma Reagin [cited 2018 Mar 29]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=rapid_plasma_reagin_syphilis
  14. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2018. Health Encyclopedia: VDRL (CSF) [cited 2018 Mar 29]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=vdrl_csf
  15. UW Health [Internet]. Madison (WI): University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority; c2018. Syphilis Tests: Results [updated 2017 Mar 20; cited 2018 Mar 29]; [about 8 screens]. Available from: https://www.uwhealth.org/health/topic/medicaltest/syphilis-tests/hw5839.html#hw5874
  16. UW Health [Internet]. Madison (WI): University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority; c2018. Syphilis Tests: Test Overview [updated 2017 Mar 20; cited 2018 Mar 29]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.uwhealth.org/health/topic/medicaltest/syphilis-tests/hw5839.html
  17. UW Health [Internet]. Madison (WI): University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority; c2018. Syphilis Tests: Why It is Done [updated 2017 Mar 20; cited 2018 Mar 29]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.uwhealth.org/health/topic/medicaltest/syphilis-tests/hw5839.html#hw5852

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Osteosarcoma-Mayo Clinichttps://www.healthlynked.com/2018/08/12/osteosarcoma-mayo-clinic/

Dr. Carola Arndt discusses osteosarcoma which is one of the most common malignant tumors of bone in teenagers and young adults. It has an incidence of 5.6 per million in children under 15 in the U.S. Dr. Arndt also discusses diagnoses, evaluation, and treatment of osteosarcoma. Treatment for osteosarcoma at Mayo Clinic is a multidisciplinary teamwork approach. Additionally, Dr. Arndt discusses Mayo Clinic’s membership in the Children’s Oncology group as well as EURAMOS (European and American Osteosarcoma Study Group).

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Precision Medicine: Custom Treatment From Your Genes

A child in distress, no answers, no hope, until a doctor’s hunch using a new groundbreaking approach, precision medicine, shines a light on how to save her life, illuminating hope for many others. See how your genetic makeup and lifestyle can create precision medicine.

To learn more, see our extensive special report: Path to a Breakthrough with Robin Roberts: http://wb.md/2aFICwC

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Skin Biopsy: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information

 

What is a skin biopsy?

A skin biopsy is a procedure that removes a small sample of skin for testing. The skin sample is looked at under a microscope to check for skin cancer, skin infections, or skin disorders such as psoriasis.

There are three main ways to do a skin biopsy:

  • A punch biopsy, which uses a special circular tool to remove the sample.
  • A shave biopsy, which removes the sample with a razor blade
  • An excisional biopsy, which removes the sample with small knife called a scalpel.

The type of biopsy you get depends on the location and size of the abnormal area of skin, known as a skin lesion. Most skin biopsies can be done in a health care provider’s office or other outpatient facility.

Other names: punch biopsy, shave biopsy, excisional biopsy, skin cancer biopsy, basal cell biopsy, squamous cell biopsy, melanoma biopsy

What is it used for?

A skin biopsy is used to help diagnose a variety of skin conditions including:

  • Skin disorders such as psoriasis and eczema
  • Bacterial or fungal infections of the skin
  • Skin cancer. A biopsy can confirm or rule out whether a suspicious mole or other growth is cancerous.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell cancers. These cancers rarely spread to other parts of the body and are usually curable with treatment. A third type of skin cancer is called melanoma. Melanoma is less common than the other two, but more dangerous because it’s more likely to spread. Most skin cancer deaths are caused by melanoma.

A skin biopsy can help diagnose skin cancer in the early stages, when it’s easier to treat.

Why do I need a skin biopsy?

You may need a skin biopsy if you have certain skin symptoms such as:

  • A persistent rash
  • Scaly or rough skin
  • Open sores
  • A mole or other growth that is irregular in shape, color, and/or size

What happens during a skin biopsy?

A health care provider will clean the site and inject an anesthetic so you won’t feel any pain during the procedure. The rest of the procedure steps depend on which type of skin biopsy you are getting. There are three main types:

Punch biopsy

  • A health care provider will place a special circular tool over the abnormal skin area (lesion) and rotate it to remove a small piece of skin (about the size of a pencil eraser).
  • The sample will be lifted out with a special tool
  • If a larger skin sample was taken, you may need one or two stitches to cover the biopsy site.
  • Pressure will be applied to the site until the bleeding stops.
  • The site will be covered with a bandage or sterile dressing.

A punch biopsy is often used to diagnose rashes.

Shave biopsy

  • A health care provider will use a razor or a scalpel to remove a sample from the top layer of your skin.
  • Pressure will be applied to the biopsy site to stop the bleeding. You may also get a medicine that goes on top of the skin (also called a topical medicine) to help stop the bleeding.

A shave biopsy is often used if your provider thinks you may have skin cancer, or if you have a rash that’s limited to the top layer of your skin.

Excisional biopsy

  • A surgeon will use a scalpel to remove the entire skin lesion (the abnormal area of skin).
  • The surgeon will close the biopsy site with stitches.
  • Pressure will be applied to the site until the bleeding stops.
  • The site will be covered with a bandage or sterile dressing.

An excisional biopsy is often used if your provider thinks you may have melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.

After the biopsy, keep the area covered with a bandage until you’ve healed, or until your stitches come out. If you had stitches, they will be taken out 3–14 days after your procedure.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

You don’t need any special preparations for a skin biopsy.

Are there any risks to the test?

You may have a little bruising, bleeding, or soreness at the biopsy site. If these symptoms last longer than a few days or they get worse, talk to your health care provider.

What do the results mean?

If your results were normal, it means no cancer or skin disease was found. If your results were not normal, you may be diagnosed with one of the following conditions:

  • A bacterial or fungal infection
  • A skin disorder such as psoriasis
  • Skin cancer. Your results may indicate one of three types of skin cancers: basal cell, squamous cell, or melanoma.

Is there anything else I need to know about a skin biopsy?

If you are diagnosed with basal cell or squamous cell cancer, the entire cancerous lesion may be removed at the time of the skin biopsy or soon after. Often, no other treatment is needed. If you are diagnosed with melanoma, you will need more tests to see if the cancer has spread. Then you and your health care provider can develop a treatment plan that’s right for you.

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The Basics: Canker Sore Causes and Treatments

Burning or tingling spot in your mouth? A canker sore may be on the way. What can you do about these small ulcers inside your mouth? Learn about what causes canker sores and your treatment options.

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