Specimen Transport

General Information

All patient samples are considered biohazardous and should be handled as such using appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as impermeable gloves. For transport to the laboratory specimens should be placed into special biohazard plastic bags that prominently display the biohazard warning emblem on the outside. All containers should be tightly capped, placed into a biohazard bag with accompanying paperwork placed in the external pocket of the bag. Placing the paperwork in the bag itself may result in contamination and sample rejection.

Note: specimens for Stat testing must be sent in the red or purple 'STAT' biohazard bags available on each unit. If the red or purple bags are not used laboratory staff will be unlikely to recognize the samples as 'STAT' and they may be processed as routine orders.

Needle-bearing and Other Hazardous Specimens

To protect our staff, the UCSF Clinical Laboratories does NOT accept specimens in syringes with attached needles.  Prior to specimen submission please remove syringe needles and seal the syringe with a suitable cap. Limited exceptions to this policy will be made for specimens obtained by fine needle aspiration when the entire sample is contained within the needle cavity. These specimens, typically submitted for culture, should be brought directly to the Microbiology processing area at each hospital.

Additional, laboratory messengers, clerks and other staff are instructed to refuse soiled laboratory requisitions and/or leaking specimen containers. Please insure that all exterior surfaces of specimen containers are clean and all lids are securely in place prior to transporting specimens to the lab.

Pneumatic Tube

A pneumatic tube delivery system is available in some units for sample transport. At Parnassus, the pneumatic tube is primarily intended for STAT samples, while at Mission Bay both STAT and routine samples can be transported. The system should NOT be used for transport of any of the following:

  1. Liquid > 2 liters in volume
  2. Items heavier than 4 kg
  3. Pathology or cytology samples
  4. Stool samples
  5. Capillary tube samples
  6. Samples for Platelet Aggregation studies, Platelet Function Analysis (PFA-100) and Thromboelastograph (TEG)
  7. Glass items
  8. Radioactive materials
  9. Valuables

It is preferable to transport samples from only 1-2 patients at a time in the pneumatic tube. Each set of patient samples should be in an individual biohazard bag with any corresponding paperwork in the external sleeve. Make sure that all containers are tightly capped, especially urine cups, and place into the transport container along with the included foam inserts. DO NOT remove the foam inserts to make more room in the transport container, use a second container if necessary. Close the transport container making sure that nothing is sticking out and that the latches are completely closed. When samples are properly contained and the transport container is closed there is little risk of sample contaminating the tube system even if the sample container itself should leak. Leaking of patient sample into the tube system will result in shutdown of the system until decontamination procedures can be completed.

Once the container is ready to send through the system follow the procedure for use of the respective p-tube system, making sure that the right receiving station is selected. Inadvertent transport of samples to the wrong location may results in sample loss or rejection, due to stability limits.

Robotic TUG System

The Mission Bay Hospitals employ an extensive robotic TUG system that can be used for specimen transport.  However, please note that it can take the TUGs considerable time to complete their transport route.  As such, this system should not be used to transport time sensitive samples. The Moffitt-Long hospitals has a more limited TUG system that can also be used for specimen transport, especially afterhours.

Laboratory Messengers

During the day shift, laboratory messengers pick up patient specimens from the laboratory refrigerators and soiled utility areas in Moffitt and Long Hospitals, the ACC labs, and Mt. Zion.  Messenger schedules are posted at the respective pick-up locations. Note, given the extensive pneumatic tube and robotic TUG systems at Mission Bay, the Clinical Labs does not employ messengers at this location.