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What causes varying lab results drawn at different places?

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Internal Medicine Specialist
Practicing since : 1981
Answered : 824 Questions
I had 2 series of labs drawn at 2 different places within the week. I am considering giving up paying for my healthcare and switching to the VA. The VA tests all showed normal. The private Dr. showed a borderline high ALT. I am not sure why the differences in tests. Do you have an idea?

Posted Mon, 11 Aug 2014 in Liver and Gall Bladder
Answered by Dr. Karen Steinberg 24 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Test results may vary from lab to lab

Detailed Answer:
Hi, thank you for using Healthcare Magic.

It is common for lab tests to vary slightly at different times and at different labs. The methods used to measure the particular chemical may be different at different labs and thus give different results. Each lab has determined what its own normal range is, so it is difficult sometimes to make a direct comparison between results from different labs. Also blood chemistries are dynamic, which means that changes occur from moment to moment. The time between the 2 blood draws can account for the difference.

It would be best to get followup labs at the same place. If there is a trend, that can be more easily determined. Atorvastatin is a drug that can affect ALT levels, and it's recommended that those tests be followed periodically to see if there's a trend. It could also be the difference is due to a trend that has started, and you should have followup tests in any case in a month or so anyway.

I don't think it's a difference between the care given by the VA vs the private doctor, if that is what you are concerned about. The difference in the lab tests should not stop you from seeking healthcare at the VA. The only thing I would suggest is that you choose one place and stick to it, and that you have the blood tests repeated.

Hope this answers your query. If you have further questions, I would be happy to answer them.
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