Tests Used Frequently in the Emergency Department

Physicians order a wide range of tests to help diagnose a medical problem and guide their treatment decisions. Lab tests can take up to an hour, while the taking and reading of an X-ray or series of X-rays can take an hour or more.

Some of the most commonly ordered tests include:

CBC and The Protime – The most common hematology test is the CBC - complete blood count. It examines the red and white blood cells to check for anemia and/or infection. If you are taking blood thinners, your doctor may order a Protime test to make sure you are taking the proper dose.

Chemistry Profile – This comprehensive test produces results detailing everything from sugar levels to electrolytes and enzymes pertaining to each of the major organ systems. Heart attack, diabetes, dehydration and kidney problems are among the medical situations which can be spotted through these results.

UA – A urine sample is tested for kidney infections and/or kidney stones.

Arterial Blood Gas (ABG) – This test on blood taken from an artery (usually one in the wrist) measures oxygen and carbon dioxide levels and acid or pH content, presenting physicians with information useful in diagnosing heart problems, drug reactions or overdoses, or diabetic problems. Results can be ready in 15 minutes.

EKG – This is a painless routine procedure that measures electrical activity of the heart. A physician usually orders this test when a heart attack or other heart problem is suspected or needs to be ruled out.

Imaging – X-rays, CAT scans and ultrasounds give physicians a "picture" of the state of the inside of the body. Using these images, physicians can distinguish broken bones from sprains, identify brain injuries, or view an unborn baby. Diagnostic imaging may require a longer wait time than other tests. X-rays are usually taken within 45 minutes of a doctor’s order. If additional X-rays or multiple views are ordered, more time may be required.

Other Tests – Blood tests to screen specifically for blood alcohol levels or pregnancy status can also be performed by the Emergency Department.