How to Avoid a Blood Draw Bloodbath
What you can do to minimize your risk of bruising, discomfort, and inaccurate results.
I often hear stories from my patients about blood draws gone bad. Big bruises. Uncomfortable swelling. The phlebotomist digging around with multiple sticks before finally hitting something. And sometimes I get test results that could have been better with some pregame preparation. I am not a phlebotomist, and I’ll be the first to tell you that I was not very good at venipuncture when I learned as a resident. For some reason I could do arterial sticks well, and I never missed a pediatric spinal tap… but page me at 2 AM to “help the nurses” find a vein on a challenging patient and I would surely fail.
Yesterday I was on the other end of the needle, as a now middle aged man getting some mostly routine blood work. I’ve learned a trick or two to minimize my risk of having a bad experience. Granted I’m thin and my veins stick out, but I’m going to share some hacks I think will help you during your next blood draw, too.
But first, a pretest. One of these arms is mine, and one is a family member’s. I used my techniques, she used the standard approach. Which looks better to you, exhibit A or exhibit B?
I won’t guarantee these tips will always work, but they should help. And I know the above exhibits are somewhat sensational. The following does take a little extra preparation time, and some assertiveness in the face of a health care machine that tries to move people through quickly. But I think these tips are overlooked and very worthwhile. Try them because… why not give it a try?