The term hemolyzed, or hemolysis, refers to the destruction, damage or breakdown of red blood cells, according to ICON. When red blood cells are damaged it causes hemoglobin to leak from the cells and may affect the accuracy of blood tests.
Causes of hemolysis often include improper handling of a blood sample through collection, transportation or processing, states Viracor-IBT Laboratories. A hemolyzed blood sample is evident by a pink or reddish hue. In many cases, another sample is needed to ensure accurate diagnosis in the results. Although hemolysis is a common occurrence, there are methods of preventing it that can be performed including allowing the alcohol to dry before injecting the needle and disengaging the vacuum tube before removing the needle from the vein.
It's important to use a needle of the appropriate size to obtain the sample, explains ICON. A needle gauge that is too large for the vein can cause a vacuum that pulls the red blood cells in too quickly. Additionally, hemolysis can occur if the blood is drawn too slowly into the tube.
Lab professionals should ensure the sample isn't exposed to extreme temperatures and isn't mixed or vigorously shaken when processing the sample, explains Viracor-IBT Laboratories. The blood should be given enough time to clot prior to the centrifugation process, and the centrifuge should not be set at a higher speed than necessary.