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Scientists working attentively with microscopes in laboratory.

Different Types of Clinical Testing Labs

Clinical testing labs, previously an unsung component of the healthcare system, have become increasingly recognized for their significant role in modern medicine.

“In the past, the value of clinical laboratories as an integral part of the healthcare system was not well realized,” according to research by Marlon L. Bayot, Grace D. Brannan, and Prisha Naidoo published by StatPearls. “Throughout time, more physicians have recognized the need for laboratory tests to confirm their diagnoses and to support the monitoring of their patients as to its response to therapy.”

Today, clinical testing laboratories are located within or near hospital facilities to provide access to both physicians and their patients.

“Classifications of clinical laboratories … reveal that these facilities can provide quality laboratory tests that are significant for addressing medical and public health needs,” said the trio of authors.

Various Ways to Classify Clinical Testing Laboratories

There are various ways to classify clinical testing labs, and the categories are constantly shifting as new fields and methods of testing come online.

Here are some of the ways to categorize clinical testing labs:

  • Ownership of the Clinical Testing Lab: Labs can be government-owned or public labs, typically under the department of pathology or laboratory medicine as part of hospitals and/or medical centers. Labs can also be private facilities, such as Wise Diagnostic Systems.

  • Function of the Clinical Testing Lab: There are specialty labs that provide disease-specific diagnostic and confirmatory tests, and there are general clinical labs that provide common diagnostic tests.

  • Test Specialization of the Clinical Testing Lab: Labs can specialize in different fields from hematology to molecular biology to clinical chemistry.

  • Laboratory Network: Labs can be part of networks, participating at different levels including:

o   Peripheral Labs: These labs provide routine screening, diagnostic, and follow-up tests for patients, typically in accessible locations to the community they serve.


o   Intermediate-Level Labs: These district or regional-level labs can conduct additional tests other than those done by peripheral labs. They may act as a referral lab for special cases.


o   National Reference Labs: Perform oversight and overall management of the lab network including training and development, monitoring, evaluation, and research. They can provide highly specialized testing including the introduction and phasing in of new diagnostic tests.

10 Types of Clinical Testing Labs by Specialization

10 types of clinical testing labs that specialize in certain fields of interest include:

  • Clinical Chemistry Labs: Also known as clinical biochemistry or clinical laboratory science, these specialized labs perform tests on blood and other bodily fluids to diagnose and monitor various medical conditions. These labs analyze blood and other bodily fluids to measure levels of various substances, such as glucose, cholesterol, electrolytes, enzymes, proteins, hormones, and drugs.

    Examples of tests commonly performed in clinical chemistry labs include:

o   Blood glucose tests to diagnose and monitor diabetes.

o   Lipid profile tests to measure levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.

o   Creatinine and BUN tests to evaluate kidney function.

o   Liver function tests to assess liver health.

o   Thyroid function tests to evaluate thyroid function.

o   Drug level tests to monitor therapeutic drug levels.

Clinical chemistry labs are equipped with sophisticated instruments and technology, such as automated analyzers and mass spectrometers, to process and analyze large numbers of samples quickly and accurately. These labs are staffed by medical laboratory scientists, medical laboratory technicians, and other healthcare professionals who are trained to operate the equipment and interpret test results.

  • Hematology Labs: These labs perform tests on blood and bone marrow samples to diagnose and monitor blood disorders. These labs study blood cells and blood-forming tissues. They often perform tests such as complete blood counts (CBCs), coagulation studies, and blood smear evaluations. Hematology labs also provide specialized testing such as flow cytometry, which can detect abnormal cells and genetic mutations. These labs can diagnose and monitor such diseases and conditions as anemia, leukemia, and clotting disorders.
  • Microbiology Labs: These labs perform tests on samples of blood, urine, and other bodily fluids to identify and diagnose infections caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms. These tests may include culture-based methods, as well as molecular techniques such as PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to detect the presence of specific microorganisms. Microbiology labs also perform antimicrobial susceptibility testing, which determines the effectiveness of different antibiotics against specific microorganisms. They also play a crucial role in identifying and monitoring the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of microorganisms.
  • Immunology Labs: These labs perform tests on blood and other bodily fluids to measure levels of various immune system components, such as antibodies and white blood cells. These labs study the immune system and perform tests such as serological tests for infectious diseases and allergies. In-vitro functional assays are often performed to check the activity of different cells and molecules of the immune system. Flow cytometry can be used to measure the number and function of different immune cells, such as T cells and B cells. Immunology labs also perform tests to evaluate the specific immune response to different antigens, such as skin tests and ELISA assays, which can be used to diagnose allergies or infections.
  • Cytology Labs: These labs perform tests on samples of cells, such as those obtained through a Pap smear (cervical smear), fine-needle aspirations, and other bodily fluids or tissues to diagnose and monitor cancer and other cellular abnormalities. Cytology labs also perform specialized testing such as flow cytometry, which can detect abnormal cells and genetic mutations.
  • Genetics Labs: These labs perform tests on DNA samples (taken by blood, saliva, and other bodily fluids) to identify genetic disorders and to analyze genetic material for research and forensic purposes. These labs study the genetic makeup of an individual, including inherited diseases and genetic predispositions. These tests may include DNA sequencing, genetic testing, chromosomal analysis, and carrier testing.
  • Histology Labs: These labs prepare and examine tissue samples under a microscope to diagnose and monitor cancer, inflammation, and other infections. The histology lab also plays an important role in research, by providing detailed information on the microarchitecture of various tissues and how they may be affected by different diseases. They also work closely with pathologists to make accurate diagnoses and interpret complex tissue samples.
  • Pathology Labs: These labs perform tests on samples of blood, tissue, and bodily fluids to diagnose and monitor diseases and other medical conditions. Pathology labs also play a critical role in research, by providing detailed information on the causes and progression of various diseases, and by developing new diagnostic methods. They work closely with other medical professionals such as surgeons, oncologists, and primary care physicians, to provide accurate diagnoses and assist in the treatment of patients. Pathology labs perform a wide variety of tests, such as:

o   Chemical Pathology

o   Cytopathology

o   Hematology

o   Histopathology

o   Microbiology

  • Toxicology Labs: These labs perform tests on blood, urine, and other bodily fluids to identify and measure levels of drugs, poisons, chemicals, and other toxic substances in the body. They also perform testing on environmental samples, food, and water to ensure safety and compliance with regulations. These tests may include the measurement of levels of specific substances or their metabolites in the body, as well as functional assays to assess the toxic effects on specific organs or systems. They provide support to regulatory agencies and industries to evaluate the safety of new drugs and chemicals, and to monitor compliance with environmental regulations.
  • Clinical Trials Labs: These labs are used for research and development of drugs, medical procedures, and medical devices which are not yet available in the market. These labs typically conduct laboratory tests, imaging studies, and other procedures on samples and participants in a clinical trial. These tests are used to monitor the safety of the participants, track the progress of the disease, and measure the effectiveness of the treatment being tested.