February 19, 2009
Dear THSteps DSHS Laboratory Submitter:
We are notifying you of an upcoming change in the requirements for submitting certain specimens to the Texas Department of State Health Services laboratory. To maintain high testing standards, the DSHS laboratory must implement more stringent acceptance/rejection criteria for specimens submitted for syphilis (RPR and TPPA), HIV and Hepatitis C testing.
Currently, specimens for these tests are accepted in a red-top blood collection tube, shipped at ambient temperature. This is not in accordance with the collection tube manufacturer’s specifications and the laboratory must adhere to those specifications.
Effective March 12, 2009, the DSHS laboratory will only accept serum specimens shipped cold and received within five days of specimen collection. Serum specimens may be collected in one of two ways:
- The specimen may be collected in a red-top blood collection tube and centrifuged within two hours of collection. The serum must then be poured into a transport tube and shipped overnight cold, on cold packs; or
- The specimen may be collected in a serum separator tube (SST), centrifuged within two hours of collection, and the SST shipped overnight cold, on cold packs. Please note, if you use an SST, the fill volume on the amount of blood in the tube is critical. Tubes that are not within +/- 10 percent of the indicated appropriate fill volume on the tube will be rejected and not tested.
Because we recognize that this may be a significant change for your office or clinic, the DSHS laboratory can assist during the transition.
- If you are able to collect, centrifuge and ship the specimens using the methods specified above, the DSHS laboratory can provide the following supplies:
- tubes for specimen collection (either the red-top blood collection tubes or SST, based on your preference)
- transport tubes in which to pour the specimen if you opt to use the red-top blood collection tubes
- containers and cold packs for shipping these specimens, and
- air bills to cover overnight shipment costs.
- If you currently have no means to centrifuge specimens within two hours of collection, please contact Susan Hoffpauir at (888) 963-7111, ext. 6030 or by email at LabInfo.
The DSHS laboratory will be providing additional details over the coming weeks, including instructions on how to request necessary supplies. Those who do not have experience with centrifuging blood specimens will receive safety instructions and training materials.
THSteps providers will also have the option of utilizing commercial laboratories, rather than the DSHS Laboratory, for these specific tests. Additional information regarding procedures for this option will be provided prior to the March 12, 2009 effective date.
Updated information will be available on the DSHS Website at http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/lab/serumSpecimenCriteria.shtm. Please check this Website regularly for the most current information.
We ask that you please provide contact information so that the DSHS laboratory can send you updates. Also, to better serve your specimen testing needs, please complete the enclosed survey and submit it by email to LabInfo or by fax to (512) 458-7294. For your convenience the survey is also available at the website listed above. We would appreciate your response to this survey by February 26, 2009 as your survey responses will allow us to send your office or clinic the most current information and any supplies that you may need to comply with the revised procedures.
Susan U. Neill, PhD, MBA
Director, Laboratory Services Section