Just how often do biopsy and blood samples get mixed up?


We know it happens. You are told your PSA has risen unexpectedly … but when you get it retested, it hasn’t. Worse still … you are told you have cancer when you don’t!

An article by Gina Kolata in today’s New York Times looks at just how often there are mix-ups between samples sent to clinical laboratories for testing … and the right information is delivered back to the doctor (or the patient directly), but it is information from a different patient.

One study has shown that among a total of 6,733 blood samples, 31 (0.46 percent) got switched as the results for the wrong patient. It doesn’t seem like many cases; humans make mistakes (it’s part of being human) … but what if it’s your blood sample or your biopsy sample?

According to the article in the NYT:

There are about 806,000 prostate biopsies a year in the United States. Lab mix-ups of these biopsies alone cost the nation about $879.9 million per year. That figure includes cost of lawsuits that result from mix-ups.

And there may be a solution. The article’s worth a read!

One Response

  1. If you have a biopsy, ask to see the specimen container they put the tissue in to be sure it has your name on it.

    Some places show the container to patients before biopsy to confirm the name. This won’t prevent all mix-ups, but it will help, and gives the patient some reassurance that at least at that point during the biopsy process, the tissue specimens went in the correct container.

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