The quiet achiever: why we couldn’t do without the full blood examination

In October GPs told us they “couldn’t do without” pathology and the Full Blood Examination (FBE) is one of the most commonly requested blood tests.

The FBE provides a window into the overall health of a person. The test includes the examination of blood cells and is very useful in the diagnosis of certain disease states.

Inside the lab, a blood sample is passed through a sophisticated instrument that produces 36 results in less than 60 seconds! These give an idea of the size, structure and number of blood cells.

These 36 results provide invaluable information including:

• Oxygen levels in the blood
• Whether a sick patient needs a blood transfusion
• A blood cancer like leukaemia might be present
• The patient is iron deficient

In many cases the Medical Scientist and Pathologist are required to look at the cells down a microscope to help determine the diagnosis and recommendations to the clinician. As well as being requested by General Practice, the FBE is also used in hospital settings in a variety of departments including intensive care, emergency departments, cancer clinics and even to monitor blood loss during surgery or childbirth.

The full blood examination is an example of how amazing pathology is at providing the answers doctors need to manage their patients.