What Is Hemolysis, and How Does It Affect Lab Results?

Hemolysis, or the breakdown of red blood cells, affects laboratory tests in varying degrees and is dependent on the test being performed, according to Calgary Lab Services. Slight hemolysis typically has little effect on test results, while more advanced hemolysis almost always requires a recollection, as results are grossly affected.

Blood samples that have slight breakdown of red blood cells may be used for testing, although the hemolysis is typically noted, reports Calgary Lab Services. However, even slight hemolysis can greatly affect some results, such as potassium and lactate dehydrogenase testing. For instance, only a slight change is present in testing of phosphate, total protein, albumin, magnesium and calcium levels, while a noticeable change is present in testing of coagulation, iron levels, ALT and CK.

Red blood cell breakdown is a natural process, as red blood cells typically live for 110 to 120 days and then deteriorate, explains MedlinePlus. Hemolysis can occur in the patient, during collection or in the collection tube, according to Calgary Lab Services. Red blood cell breakdown in the patient can be caused by many conditions, including anemia, toxins, hemodialysis and antigen-antibody reactions. Hemolysis that occurs during collection or in the collection tube is due to improper handling, transport and storage practices.