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    Laboratory Services Section
    MC 1947
    PO Box 149347 Austin, TX 78714-9347
    1100 W. 49th Street
    Austin, TX 78756-3199

    Phone: (512) 776-7318
    Fax: (512) 776-7294

    Phone Us Toll Free at:
    (888) 963-7111, ext. 7318

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Laboratory Services Section - Serum Specimen Criteria FAQ



Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Why the change in protocol?
Answer: The DSHS Laboratory will only accept serum specimens shipped cold and received within five days of specimen collection.
Question: What happens if the provider doesn’t comply?
Answer: If providers do not comply, the specimens will be rejected and reported as "Unsatisfactory."
Question: When are the changes effective?
Answer: These changes are effective March 12, 2009.
Question: What tests are affected by these changes?
Answer: This protocol change only affects specimens sent to DSHS for syphilis (RPR and TPPA), HIV, and Hepatitis C testing (HCV/HBV).
Question: What programs are required to submit specimens for syphilis, HIV, and HCV/HBV testing to the DSHS laboratory?
Answer: Title V, IDEAS, and HIV/STD are required to submit specimens for these tests to the DSHS Laboratory.
Question: If we send the THSteps specimens for syphilis (RPR and TPPA) and HIV to a local/commercial laboratory, how will that affect payment?
Answer: You will be paid for a THSteps checkup. The local/commercial laboratory will be able to bill Medicaid for these tests and be reimbursed. Hepatitis C is not part of a THSteps medical well check exam and specimens submitted for this test can be sent to a local/commercial laboratory of choice, including the DSHS Laboratory.
Question: Will specimens be rejected if they are collected prior to the effective date?
Answer: Specimens received on or after the implementation date of March 12, 2009 will be subject to the new protocol, even if they have been collected prior to March 12. This means that as long as those specimens collected prior to March 12 have been centrifuged within the manufacturer-required 2 hours of blood collection and arrive at DSHS cold and within 5 days from the date of collection, they will be accepted. Specimens that do not meet these criteria on or after March 12, 2009 will be rejected and reported as "Unsatisfactory."
Question: Who do I contact if I have questions?
Answer: Contact Susan Hoffpauir at 888-963-7111 extension 6030 or via email at LabInfo.
Question: Does this apply to hemoglobin and lead testing?
Answer: No, this protocol change does not apply to hemoglobin and lead testing. The protocol change only applies to specimens submitted for syphilis (RPR and TPPA), HIV, and Hepatitis C testing. Protocols remain the same for all other types of testing done by DSHS.
Question: How do we handle broken tubes?
Answer: DSHS will be providing plastic blood collection tubes. The risk of experiencing a broken tube with this material is low.
Question: How do I get supplies?
Answer: Providers that submitted ten (10) or more specimens per year will automatically receive an initial allotment of necessary supplies. Future supplies will need to be ordered using the appropriate order form from the Container Preparation Department.
Question: Is this going to cost me anything?

DSHS will be bearing the cost for the following initial supplies:

  • tubes for specimen collection
  • serum transport tubes
  • shipping containers and cold packs
  • air bills to cover overnight shipment costs
Question: What supplies are going to be provided?
Answer: Tubes for specimen collection (either the red-top blood collection tubes or SST), transport tubes for serum, cold box shipping containers, cold packs, and air bills to cover overnight shipping costs.
Question: How long will it take to get supplies?

DSHS is working diligently to make sure providers have the necessary supplies by March 9 so they will be able to ship specimens due to arrive at the laboratory by March 12 under the new criteria.

Question: What kind of supplies do I need that will not be provided by DSHS?
Answer: Personal protective equipment and spill kits will not be provided by DSHS.
Specimen Collection
Question: Do I have to “pour over” the serum?
Answer: Yes, if utilizing red top collection tubes for specimen collection. After centrifuging blood collection tubes, serum needs to be transferred from the red top blood collection tube to a serum transport tube. This can be done by pipetting the serum into the serum transport tube.
No, if you are utilizing a Serum Separator Tube (SST) for collection. These tubes only need to be centrifuged.
Question: Do I have to centrifuge?
Answer: Yes. According to the collection tube manufacturer's specifications, specimens must be centrifuged within 2 hours of collection.
Question: Does the fill volume requirement apply to the blood collection tubes used for this testing?
Answer: Providers should follow the requirements listed by the manufacturer for the blood collection tubes used to collect specimens for this testing.
Question: What if I don’t have a centrifuge?
Answer: The blood collection tube manufacturer specifications require that serum be separated from the red blood cells within 2 hours from the time of blood collection. Contact Susan Hoffpauir at 888-963-7111, extension 6030, for additional information on this matter.
Question: Can serum specimens be frozen?
Answer: Yes, if serum has been separated from the red blood cells and pipetted from the blood collection tube into a serum transport tube.
Question: Can serum separator tubes (SST) be frozen?
Answer: No, the SST cannot be frozen.
Question: How many cold packs do I need to put in a box?
Answer: At least two (2) cold packs need to be put in a box to ensure that specimens stay cold for the entire duration of transport to DSHS. These cold packs must be frozen prior to packing the specimens to ensure they remain cold in transit. The specimens must be received cold by the DSHS laboratory. If specimens are received at ambient temperature they will be rejected and reported as "Unsatisfactory."
Question: Can these cold boxes be used for other purposes?
Answer: No. DSHS provides cold boxes solely for the purpose of submitting specimens that require cold shipment to the DSHS laboratory.
Question: What days can I ship?
Answer: Specimens may be shipped overnight Monday through Thursday but not the day before a federally observed holiday. Also, specimens should not be shipped on a Friday or Saturday.
Question: Can I batch ship specimens for syphilis (RPR and TPPA), HIV, and Hepatitis C testing?
Answer: Batch shipping is acceptable for all specimens collected on the same day. Specimens should be shipped on the day of collection or the following day.
Question: Can I use dry ice?
Answer: Dry ice is not recommended because of the more stringent shipping regulations. The cold packs and cold boxes provided by DSHS are sufficient for submitting specimens to be received cold.
Question: How do I get training?
Answer: Comprehensive training material (slides, flip cards, video) on the new submission criteria can be found on the Serum Specimen Criteria web page.
Question: Do I need to be certified to centrifuge and separate serum?
Answer: No. There is no certification required. DSHS will be providing comprehensive training on the correct procedure for centrifuging specimens and separating serum for syphilis, HIV, and Hepatitis C testing.

*Note: External links to other sites are intended to be informational and do not have the endorsement of the Texas Department of State Health Services. These sites may not be accessible to people with disabilities.

Last updated September 15, 2010