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March 1974

The Patient, the Laboratory, and the Surgeon

Author Affiliations

Milwaukee; Cleveland

Arch Surg. 1974;108(3):267. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1974.01350270005001

One of the traditional hallmarks of virtue in academe has been a thorough laboratory analysis of the body fluids of the patient. With the proliferation of automated technology, comprehensive laboratory screening has been extended to many hospitals heretofore not so blessed. One wonders, however, with the third party insurers who pay the bill, whether these trends are either a virtue or a blessing. In some circumstances, up to 50% of hospital expenses may be derived from laboratory costs.1

Excessive use of the laboratory obscures relevant data, inconveniences the patient unnecessarily, and raises hospital costs inappropriately. The subject is difficult to discuss because some critically ill, dynamic patients may require blood gas determinations or other studies several times during a 24-hour interval. Too frequently, however, we are at fault for failing to cancel standing orders for laboratory work, repeating a test because the results were not reported promptly, practicing unnecessary