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  Specimen Collection Containers & Packaging  


Specimen Packaging

Use only leak-proof transfer vials. Insert transfer vials into foam holders and seal in a plastic bag. Seal urine bottles in a plastic bag before you insert them into the foam holders. Package specimens with cold packs, wet ice or dry ice in insulated cartons. Close the box so that only our address is displayed and secure the lid with the snap buckle strap.

In-Common Laboratories can supply packaging systems, transfer vials, foam holders and insulated cartons. All components of the packaging system must be used as indicated to comply with Transportation of Dangerous Goods regulations. This approved Type 1A packaging system will protect samples and contain a spill in the event of an accident.

Unless otherwise stated, specimens should be stored and shipped at 4°C. Frozen specimens must be packed in dry ice for transportation. To prevent cracking of transfer vials on dry ice, it is recommended that you use polypropylene transfer vials and place transfer vials in foam holders firmly wedged in the transport box. You cannot rely on wet ice to maintain samples frozen even for a short period of time.

Specimen Collection Containers

Plasma, serum, whole blood, urine, other fluids and random stool specimens must be submitted in sturdy, leak-proof plastic vials. Do not send specimens in glass containers unless specified in the requirements. Check your plastic containers to ensure that they can withstand dry ice conditions without cracking. In-Common Laboratories can supply polypropylene transfer vials on request.

Feces collections for fecal fat analysis must be submitted in pre-weighed cans supplied by In-Common Laboratories. All fecal specimens (for fat analysis) received in other containers will be discarded.

  1. Serum, Plasma and Whole Blood Collection Containers and Procedures:

    Serum - SST: Serum Separator Tubes (e.g. red/black stopper) contain a silica clot activator and a polymer gel to separate cells from serum. After centrifugation, the gel forms a barrier between clotted red cells and the serum. This barrier will be disrupted if the tube is frozen or it is stored on its side and clot debris may leak back into the serum to produce a hemolyzed sample unsuitable for analysis. The polymer gel may interfere in some tests. These tubes should be avoided for all drug analyses. Refer to the specimen conditions document for tests that may be affected by use of gel separator tubes.

    Serum - Non-SST: These tubes (e.g. red stopper) often do not contain any additives. Allow blood to coagulate for 30 minutes and separate serum from clot promptly to avoid hemolysis.

    Plasma: Tubes for the collection of plasma may contain heparin (e.g. green stopper), EDTA (e.g. lavender stopper), oxalate/fluoride (e.g. grey stopper), citrate (e.g. light blue stopper), ACD (e.g. yellow stopper) or other anticoagulant. Mix the anticoagulant and blood well by gentle inversion of the collection tube. Separate plasma promptly to avoid hemolysis.

    Platelet-poor plasma: Collect whole blood with anticoagulant. Mix the anticoagulant and blood well by gentle inversion of the collection tube. Spin at 3,000 rpm for 15 minutes. Separate plasma promptly, being careful to not disturb and collect the boundary layer between the plasma and the cells (i.e. the "buffy coat" consisting primarily of leukocytes and platelets).

    Whole Blood: Whole blood is usually collected with heparin (green stopper) or EDTA (lavender stopper) anticoagulant. Some assays may specifically require sodium or lithium heparin - use of the wrong anticoagulant may be cytotoxic or lead to interference in the assay. Some tubes have a silicone coating to avoid adsorption of analytes to glass. Mix the anticoagulant and blood well by gentle inversion of the collection tube. Send whole blood in a plastic transfer vial if the sample is frozen - do not freeze sample in a glass tube.

    TBEP-free collection tubes: Collection tubes may be contaminated with tris-butoxy-ethyl-phosphate (TBEP) from the stopper. This contaminant will interfere with many drug analyses and other tests. Consult your tube supplier to confirm that tubes used to collect blood for specific tests are free of TBEP. Collection tubes generally available in the marketplace are now all TBEP-free.

    Trace Metals: Use metal free collection tubes to avoid artifactual results. In-Common Laboratories recommends the following Becton Dickinson BD Vacutainers® for collecting specimens for trace metal analysis; these tubes have been tested and verified as being contaminant-free:

    • BD Vacutainer 368381 - Plastic: Royal Blue top K2-EDTA : for all metals except Antimony.
    • BD Vacutainer 366480 - Glass: Green top Sodium Heparin : for Antimony.

    Refrigerated collection: Some analytes are very labile or highly susceptible to enzyme action following collection. To prevent loss of analytes or spuriously low results, it may be necessary to collect the blood in a prechilled tube. After collection, cool the whole blood quickly at bedside using an ice bath. Separate and freeze plasma as soon as possible.

    (Note: Collection tube stopper colors are given as examples only, based on Vacutainer® tubes widely available from Becton Dickinson®. Confirm collection tube additives and preservatives with your supplier.)

  2. Other Collection Containers and Procedures:

    Culture media: In-Common Laboratories will supply transfer vial with media required for microbiology. It may be necessary to freeze some culture media before use. Do not collect any specimen if the culture appears to contain overgrowth (e.g. cloudy appearance, unusual colour, odour).

    Feces - 72 h collections: We will only accept 72 h feces collection specimens sent in pre-weighed 4 L metal cans supplied by In-Common Laboratories. Do not fill can beyond the 2/3 fill mark - instead use a second can if required. Close can securely using at least three metal clips provided. Wrap carefully in a leak-proof plastic bag. In-Common Laboratories will discard fecal specimens that have leaked during transport to In-Common Laboratories.

    Feces - Random: Send specimen requested in a mid-stream urine container. You can also use a transfer vial if a small specimen is requested.

    Fluids (Amniotic, CSF, Joint, Pleural): Use plastic transfer vial; do not add anticoagulant or other preservative unless specifically requested.

    Gastric lavage: Collect and send in mid-stream urine container. Do not add anticoagulant or other preservative unless specifically requested. Charcoal will not interfere with tests for drugs and volatiles (includes ethanol).

    Urine: Use In-Common Laboratories polypropylene transfer vials or mid-stream urine containers to transfer specimens to In-Common Laboratories. You must close the container tightly to ensure that the container is properly sealed. Wrapping a specimen with Parafilm will not prevent leakage from a poorly closed container. Containers with cap-liners may contaminate specimens, especially specimens for trace element analyses. The In-Common Laboratories-supplied polypropylene transfer vial and sterile plastic urine vial (Starplex B602-10 with orange screw cap) have been tested and verified as being contaminant-free and are recommended to collect and transfer specimens for trace metal analyses.

    Urine Preservatives: Preservatives may be added prior to the start of collection or after collection - refer to specific test listing for instruction.

    (Note: In-Common Laboratories may supply polypropylene transfer vials, 72 h feces collection tins and some specialized transportation media. Contact Customer Service for further information.)

Contact Client Services at (416) 422-3000 Ext. 300 or to inquire about or order special collection containers, transport media, some preservatives, cans for fecal fat, transfer vials, requisitions or transport boxes.You may be billed for common, widely available collection supplies that we provide.

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