Understanding Your Lab Results
Sample Laboratory Report
This example of a lab report may or may not look like the one from your healthcare provider's office or clinic. Different labs report results differently, and tests such as chemistry panels may include slightly different groups of tests. However, the general concepts illustrated here should still apply. Consult your healthcare provider if you have questions about your specific lab results.
Ms. Doe's cholesterol is at the upper end of the reference range and is not reported as "abnormal" or "high". Ideally, the recommended cholesterol level should be less than 200 to reduce the risk of heart disease. For this reason, Ms. Doe's healthcare provider might still recommend further testing (a fasting lipid profile to determine the values of certain types of cholesterol, for example) and prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs and/or counsel Ms. Doe on important dietary changes. This example shows how a lab value within the "normal" range may sometimes prompt further evaluation.
This means that Ms. Doe's cholesterol value is greater than 75% of women in the same age range. As a rule of thumb, a cholesterol between the 75th and 90th percentiles indicates a moderate risk and greater than 90th percentile a high risk of developing coronary artery disease.
The "H" means that the value is higher than the high end of the reference range. Low values would be indicated with an "L". Some lab reports list both high and low values in a separate column labeled "Abnormal". A high or low value is not necessarily a cause for alarm. Five percent of perfectly healthy persons will have values outside of the reference range. Here, Ms. Doe's liver enzymes are minimally elevated. Her healthcare provider might choose to review her medications for drugs that can cause this, order further blood tests, or simply follow the enzyme levels over time.
This article was provided by AIDS Community Research Initiative of America. Visit ACRIA's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.