Skip a meal, skip the line

Friday, June 10, 2016   |   Category: Sonora Quest News


Your doctor ordered some lab work that requires fasting, but you have a busy morning and dread the thought of waiting in the long line during the patient service center’s busiest time. Why can’t you do it later in the day? You can!

Dr. Robert A Stern, M.D., Medical Director for Sonora Quest Laboratories, shares what you need to know about planning for scheduling blood tests.

Is it really that busy in the mornings?

Dr. Stern: For Sonora Quest Laboratories, our Patient Service Centers (where patients have their blood drawn) are busiest in the mornings. The staff at Patient Service Centers are efficient, but for people who don’t have an appointment, wait times first thing in the mornings (Sonora Quest Laboratories Patient Service Centers open between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. typically) can definitely take a chunk of time out of your morning. Patients can schedule an early morning appointment to expedite their wait time, but a limited number of appointments are available.

How long will I wait if I go later in the day?

Dr. Stern: Every Patient Service Center is different, but on average, wait times are reduced significantly, often by more than 50%, later in the day. By going at a different time of day you can potentially get back a lot of your time. That’s why we simply say, “Skip a meal, skip the line” because fasting is still crucial, but it doesn’t always have to be first thing in the morning.

Do I actually need to fast?

Dr. Stern: Maybe – fasting is required for some tests but not for others. For example, fasting is necessary for two very common tests, glucose and lipids, which measure your blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and triglycerides.  Always talk to your health care provider about any lab tests they order and how you need to prepare for a test prior to your visit.

Why do I need to fast? What happens if I don’t?

Dr. Stern: Eating a meal can affect the results of certain laboratory tests depending on what you ate and when you ate it. When you eat, food is broken down in your digestive tract and is absorbed into your blood as a variety or compounds, including glucose and lipids. If you eat too close to a glucose test, for example, your results will likely be impacted. When your doctor sees that high glucose value, they won’t know if this is because of the food you ate before the test, or if you have an underlying health issue. Fasting eliminates the unpredictable effects, makes the tests an accurate health profile, and allows your doctor to work with you to make the best plan for your health.

How long do I actually have to fast for these tests?

Dr. Stern: Always talk to your doctor or health care provider about your specific tests and what they recommend. In general, though, eight hours will be all you need. It can be first thing in the morning if you have fasted all night, or you can eat breakfast at 7 a.m., skip lunch, and have your blood drawn at 3 p.m. Some of our Patient Service Centers are open until 5 p.m., so you can eat a later breakfast and schedule an appointment near the end of the day.  The key is to fast for 8 hours before your blood is drawn.  

When I am fasting, can I still drink beverages? What about my medications?

Dr. Stern: When you are fasting, the only beverage you can drink is water. No coffee, no tea, no juices, etc. As far as medications, talk to your health care provider, but in general, you will want to continue taking medications.

Are there any tests that have to be done in the morning, regardless of when I last ate?

Dr. Stern: A few of the things that we test for exhibit a property called “diurnal variation,” which means that the amount of them in your blood varies depending on the time of day. For these tests it is important that they be drawn at a specific time, usually in the morning, so that we can correctly interpret the results.  Iron is an example of a test that needs to be drawn first thing in the morning. Most tests aren’t affected by the time of day your blood is drawn, so talk to your health care provider.

Dr. Robert Stern is Sonora Quest Laboratories’ medical director and a board certified pathologist who has been active in patient care across the country for 24 years. He currently practices in the Phoenix, Ariz. metropolitan region, serving as the vice president of Clin-Path Associates, P.L.C., an Executive Committee member of Pathology Specialists of Arizona, one of the largest pathology group practices in the United States.

To learn more about ordering your own laboratory testing, referred to as Direct Access Testing, visit My Lab ReQuest. Find a Sonora Quest Laboratories Patient Service Center or schedule an appointment today.