Each tube used for blood collection is labeled by the manufacturer with important information. This information includes: tube volume in milliliters (mL), expiration date, lot number and, if applicable, the type of additive that is in the tube.
Tube volume: Each tube contains a vacuum that allows a specific amount of blood to enter the tube. In a tube that contains an anticoagulant, the amount of blood that is drawn into the tube will establish the correct blood to anticoagulant ratio. Tubes not filled to the correct volume (over-filled or under-filled) may cause inaccurate test results.
Expiration Date: An expiration date is stamped on all blood collection tubes, as shown in the image on the right. The tube manufacturer determines this date based on its studies of vacuum maintenance and anticoagulant effectiveness. The expiration date should be checked routinely; tubes that are past the expiration date should be discarded.
If a blood collection tube is used past its expiration date, the vacuum may not draw the amount of blood needed to fill the tube completely. Short-filled tubes may not be acceptable for testing and the specimen would have to be recollected. If the tube contains an anticoagulant, it may not work effectively (may not prevent the blood from clotting).
Lot Number: A lot number listed on the tube identifies a specific group of tubes that were manufactured at the same time. This information is important to know if a problem is identified with several collection tubes. If the defective tubes are all part of the same lot number, the manufacturer should be notified for replacement of the tubes.
Additive: Most blood collection tubes contain a type of additive or chemical that, when mixed with the blood, will yield a specimen acceptable for testing. The various types of additives that are contained in blood collection tubes are discussed on the following page.