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Vacutainers

12/05/06

  07:46:35 pm, by Nimble   , 346 words  
Categories: Distractions, Thoughts, Science

Vacutainers

There is a certain fascination to getting blood drawn. No, I don't even really like to watch it being done, but phlebotomists are rather interesting and slightly nerdy folks, and there are interesting pieces to the process.

Only from a phlebotomist are you likely to hear veins being given human attributes, the cheeky or shy veins wilfully sequestering themselves in your arm, and the phlebotomist must tease it out, with slaps, strokes and squeezes, all not in the slightest as rude as it sounds.

I remember going to have blood tests done, the first I had been given in a very long time, and hearing the number of vials of blood they needed. I thought I was going to have to go through this vein puncture process several times, and despaired...

I need not have, though. The technology has been around for ages so that they can 'stick you' only once, and draw out a number of vials. That technology is the vacutainer, invented by Joseph Kleiner in 1947 and produced at Becton, Dickinson and Company (mercifully shortened to BD for internet use).

The phlebotomist simply pops the next vial on, and the standard vacuum present helps pull the blood in, something akin to the way you pop those plastic cartridges on calligraphy or fountain pens.

There's a colour-coding convention, too. If you want to impress a phlebotomist, note the colour of any non-red caps, and tell them what the cap colour is for. Well... at least, I imagine this is how you would impress a phlebotomist. BD themselves have a fabulous wall chart you can print out.

The presence of EDTA in the blood samples collected at the O.J. Simpson household could have been blood from a purple capped vial, which has EDTA as a preservative, or a bloody hand reaching for a McDonald's burger. (Yum! I'll have murder and a Big Mac to go!) Or, maybe he injected himself with Hellmann's Mayonnaise.

It's a sign of the times that people would make videos of getting their blood drawn :) Here, see a vacutainer at work.

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