You just had your physical and the lab results came back with a big Abnormal stamped somewhere on the results. You are quite convinced that your time on earth is short. Panicked, you call your hubby and ask him to take good care of the kids.  Is this a wise way to react to an abnormal lab?

First of all, realize that most laboratories will report any result as abnormal, if this result is outside a predetermined range considered normal. In many cases these means that for this particular value, your results are either higher or lower than say 90% of others.

Does this mean that you have some horrible disease such as cancer?  Depending on which lab or labs are abnormal, your doctor will do one of three things:

Ignore the value, as it has no clinical significance. An example of this might be an isolated low chloride value. To date this has not been shown to portend any bad outcome.

Two, your doctor might decide to repeat the value. Laboratories do make mistakes; some tests are overly sensitive or something in your blood (say that energy drink you consumed yesterday) might have given a false result. Repeating the results allows your physician to determine whether a trend exists-ie the lab is becoming more abnormal or whether the value was just a fluke.

Three, your doctor can take action. This might occur, for example if your exam showed to you to be pale and then the blood test confirmed anemia. In some extreme cases, you might be asked to present yourself to the emergency room. Here further testing and perhaps even admission to the hospital might occur. However, to be honest this is an unusual occurrence.

The majority of isolated mild lab abnormalities should not be concerning and you should not lose sleep over your imminent demise. On the other hand, you should never ignore  the abnormal lab. If your doctor forgets to mention it when he or she discusses lab results (which unfortunately does at times happen, as we doctors are human and as such make mistakes) remind him or her of the abnormal result.