Exams and Tests

In the hospital, the doctor may conduct various tests.

* Blood work may be done by inserting a needle into a vein in the patient's hand or arm and drawing blood into several tubes. This blood may be analyzed to see if the patient has an elevation in the white blood cells.

* Blood may also be sent to the lab to be placed on a medium where bacteria will grow if they are present in the blood. This is called a blood culture. Results from this test usually take over 24 hours. Lab technicians may also look for bacteria in the blood under the microscope on slides.

* Samples may be taken of sputum (mucus), urine, spinal fluid, or abscess contents to look for the presence of infectious organisms.

o To obtain clean urine and to measure the amount of urine the patient produces, a flexible rubber tube may be placed in their bladder (catheter).

o Spinal fluid may be obtained from the lower back (spinal tap). After the skin is cleaned and numbed, a hollow needle is placed between the bones of the spine into the canal containing the spinal cord. Because the needle is placed lower than where the cord ends, there is little danger of injuring the nerves of the spinal cord. Sometimes the patient may experience electrical sensations or jolts in their legs during this test because the needle tickles the nerves as it goes in, but these sensations go away in a matter minutes in most cases. When the needle is in the correct spot, the doctor will let the fluid drip into tubes. These tubes are sent to the lab for testing.

o Other tests may include a chest x-ray to look for pneumonia or a CT scan to see if there is infection in the abdomen.

+ A dye might be injected into the patient's vein during a CT scan to help highlight certain organs in the abdomen. During the injection of this dye, the patient may feel a flushing or hot sensation or even become nauseated, but again this feeling will last a very short time.

+ The CT scan is a series of x-rays taken from different angles very quickly and put together by the computer to show an image of the internal organs.

+ Usually, a radiologist reads the results and notifies the patient's doctor.

o In the hospital, the patient may be placed on a cardiac monitor, which will show the patient's heart rate and rhythm.

* If the patient is an young child that is ill, and being evaluated for sepsis, he or she will get similar tests and treatment.

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