The Evolution of Phlebotomy Technology in the Last 10 Years
Phlebotomy is the field of medical technology that deals with drawing blood from patients for a variety of medical uses. Phlebotomy technology has made huge strides in its history overall, and the latter half of the 20th century and first decade of the 21st has seen it evolve into an ever more refined, well controlled, and comfortable experience for the phlebotomist and patient alike. While it used to be a somewhat traumatic, time consuming, and even dangerous practice, recent technological advancements have largely eliminated the risks and much of the discomfort associated while having blood drawn. The practice is safer, cleaner, faster, and more accurate for all concerned. Let’s take a look at some of the recent advancements in phlebotomy technology.
Vacuum Sealed Tubes
In the 20th century, prior to the advancements we’re about to discuss, drawing blood from patients was quite different than it is currently. In the 1970s, for instance, blood was taken from patients with simple syringes and put into test tubes for any analysis that was going to be conducted. The test tubes into which blood was placed had to have solutions of citrate or EDTA placed in them, mixing with the blood, in order to keep the blood from coagulating. A rubber stopper had to be placed on the test tubes to seal them from air. The process was fairly time consuming – the solutions had to be prepared by hospital or clinical staff, and the fact that the test tube was open to the air allowed made it less sanitary. And believe it or not, needles had to be resharpened on a grinder for the next phlebotomy procedure!
Though the first evacuated blood collection tubes were invented in the late 1940s, it wasn’t until somewhat later that they came into wide use in phlebotomy. These had a lot of advantages over the method described above, the main advantage being that the blood was not exposed to air, or that exposure was greatly reduced, after the sample was taken. Multiple sleeves were an innovation in Vacutainers that made for less blood drippage and air exposure.
In the mid 1980s, a large medical equipment company called Greiner Bio invented the first plastic evacuated blood collection tubes that are in general prevalent use in phlebotomy. After the blood sample was drawn, the phlebotomist essentially snapped the plastic vacuum tube closed and the blood was stored in the plastic container for testing purposes. Called Evacutainers or Vacutainers, these are the standard blood drawing technology for small to moderate amounts of blood in use in the field today.
Vacutainers have undergone some recent advancements that make them even more reliable, comfortable, and safe. Some of the these advancements include the following:
Better Needle Design
Needles have become progressively finer and more accurate in recent years. The needle is beveled so as to provide better vein puncture and greater comfort for the patent. When the needle can penetrate the vein more quickly and accurately, the result is more comfortable experience for the patient.
A transparent hub in the needle provides what is known as flashback control. This allows the phlebotomist to better view the blood entering the Vacutainer, which is called flashback. The advantage here is greater control. The phlebotomist can tell when the vein has been penetrated correctly because he or she can easily view the blood flowing into the Vacutainer. This also increases patient comfort because there is less searching for vein puncture or needle position.
These advancements to the Vacutainer have made phlebotomy a more comfortable, accurate, and sanitary experience for patient and phlebotomist alike.