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Clinical decision making is usually not an easy process for any clinician. In as much as there are conditions that can be easily identified from ‘obvious’ signs or symptoms, there are conditions that lack sufficiently noticeable manifestations while others are rare conditions with symptoms that suggest other conditions and there are also those that have unusual presentations. In clinical practice, diagnostic tests along with other tests and observations help to shed light on the presence or absence of disease and how much it has progressed to provide the most appropriate treatment or therapy. Generally, diagnostic tests provide information about the health of a person.

Diagnostic tests

Although many diseases affect millions of people around the world, there are roughly 4,000 diagnostic tests that are available today. With the advancements in technology and automation, it is now easy to use tests, and the results are more accurate ensuring that precise results are produced on time. Diagnostic tests whether done in the hospital or independent laboratories, at physician offices or home are what caregivers and physicians depend upon to prevent, diagnose, treat and manage different conditions and make an impact on the lives of millions of people.

Diagnostic test categories

Diagnostic tests can be categorized into 5 groups: molecular (a study of RNA and DNA), general chemistry (measurement of base compounds), hematology (a study of blood), microbiology (Detection of disease-causing organisms) and immunochemistry (matching of antibody-antigen response). In vitro, diagnostic tests are among the most common tests done in modern health care provision. It involves the tests done on samples taken from the body like blood, spinal fluid, urine, saliva, and DNA. The complexity of the tests differs with the simple ones being done at home or physician offices and complex ones done in large laboratories using expensive equipment and reagents together with sophisticated methods that require highly skilled technicians and personnel to perform and interpret the results.

Indications of diagnostic procedures

So, what are medical indications that warrant a diagnostic procedure? Usually, you will feel that there is a problem with a part of your body system when you have signs like pain, inability to do things that you have always been able to do, fever and fatigue among other signs of disease. The first thing to do under such circumstances would be to see a doctor and express your complaint. To determine your condition, the doctor or physician will need to establish any deviation from what is known to be normal body functioning. This can be described in terms of physiology, anatomy, psychology, homeostasis and pathology. This simply means determining your particular deviation parameters from the normal and the degree of deviation that may warrant further diagnostic procedures to be done.

Importance of diagnostic tests

There are over 7 billion diagnostic tests done in the United States each year, and the numbers are growing each day as more and more people demand diagnostic tests because they are becoming aware of their quality indicators. Apart from diagnosis, diagnostic tests help in:

  • Early detection of diseases to prevent it,
  • Identifying the stage of disease to determine its severity,
  • Drug selection and treatment monitoring for accurate and targeted treatment to suit individual needs and
  • In disease monitoring and management to evaluate the success of treatment and the need for further tests and treatment.

Clinical diagnosis made based on medical signs, and patient information should be accompanied with the performance of diagnostic tests for accurate diagnosis and respective administration of treatments and therapy and to reduce cases of diagnostic errors.

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