New Era of Phlebotomy

By: smahemtecks

As a medical laboratory technologist – one of our duties in our scope of practice is to also be a phlebotomist. Once the doctor orders specific tests for diagnostic reasons and the sample is blood, we alongside with nurses, medical laboratory assistants or phlebotomist can be the ones to draw blood samples from your veins – this procedure is also known as venipuncture. 

In Canada, there is a shortage of blood supply [1] – what does this mean for Canadians? Hospitals and outpatient clinics rely on blood supplies in emergency situations. Although, in recent years research within this field had progressed tremendously – with stem cell research in creating blood from various of sources. Why not just get accessible blood flowing from our fellow peers?
There are many other beneficial reasons and importance in blood donation from peers – but this will be saved for another post.

Today, I will be discussing the innovative technology of vein visualization and how it is currently in trial to be used in clinical settings of  venipuncture. I will also explore – what does this mean for health care professionals? and is this beneficial to patients?


The Australian Red Cross Blood Services is currently conducting a world-wide study in using a vein visualization hand-held device to detect veins on donors and patients. Click here to be redirected to the Australian Red Cross Blood Services’ website. Or watch their YouTube video down below.


Vein Visualization Technology

One company, AccuVein has been creating devices for medical imaging solutions over the past decade. Their domination in the biotechnology field is what gave rise in creating vein visualization devices. Here is a direct insert of their explanation of this technology:

Hemoglobin in the blood absorbs infrared light. When AccuVein’s device is held above the skin and activated, it can detect the difference in the hemoglobin concentration between the veins and surrounding tissue, and projects a map of the veins on the skin above them. Locating the point of needle placement is suddenly simplified for phlebotomy techniques.

AccuVein


As a future medical laboratory technologist, what are my thoughts and criticisms?

As I practiced and learned venipuncture this past term, I know the struggles of finding difficult veins and drawing blanks. I appreciate this technology but also have a few concerns.

I do think that these medical devices will soon make its way towards clinical settings of hospitals and blood donation clinics. It is a innovative technology that I think will change the donor / patient’s experience from what I read. However, I do not think that it will phase out the traditional phlebotomy procedures. Why?

Here are my reasons:

  • How much are these devices going to cost and for its maintenance costs? Whether small or large scale – this cost could decide whether these operations will incorporate the use of these devices
  • When there is a large volume of patient in-flow – there are not enough devices per health care professionals – the traditional phlebotomy procedures will be used no doubt
  • The technology seems to not give a perception of depth to the veins
    Some individuals have veins deeper into the arm and some are surface veins – health care professionals palpate to not only determine the location but the depth of the vein.
  • This device only eases the patient’s experience before insertion of the needle. Either way, the patient will feel the needle inserting into the vein

Final Verdict: Thumbs Up! Help in locating veins but not the procedure itself!
High volume venipuncture operations such as blood donations clinics will definitely benefit in its efficiency with this technology. Limited uses of these devices in hospitals will benefit burn victims or hard to find veins.

I think as health care professionals we still have to hold high standards in the venipuncture procedure. There are many incidences of bruising or hematomas caused by improper techniques. Unfortunately, these are things that happen within the health care system – let’s this be a message to future health care professionals: technology can make your job easier but it is up to your skills, techniques and standards to ensure any means of comfort to those you are in care of.

Thanks for reading, let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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