Part of the problem with an overburdened healthcare system is the fact that fewer patients seek medical treatment, even though they have access to health insurance. When in pain, for example, some people are reluctant to wait hours in an emergency room before being seen, so they double up on OTC pain medications like acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen.
Unfortunately, each of these medications also come at risk and since they are not as strong as prescription painkillers, the average person is apt to take dosages which are too high for safety. Now medical laboratory scientists in the UK have developed a new blood test that can accurately determine if acetaminophen overdose is likely to result in damage to the liver.
Some Disturbing Facts
Students studying in a NAACLS accredited medical laboratory scientist program are following this latest development closely. According to the lead scientist on the team, James W. Dear, who developed the test to detect the risk of liver damage, acetaminophen is causing even greater problems in emergency rooms around the UK.
An overdose of this popular OTC analgesic is more common than many doctors realize and, until recently, there had been no immediate test to detect specific markers which would indicate liver damage is imminent. Testing could be done, but not one which could be done on the spot as patients presented with symptoms of overdosing. This new blood test developed by medical laboratory scientists is now able to accurately predict liver damage or failure from the moment a patient presents at an emergency room.
New Test Benefits Patients Previously Neglected
What Dr. Dear recognized as one of the main benefits of the new blood test is that patients who had taken too much of this popular pain medication had been inadvertently neglected. While it has been known for decades that acetaminophen in large quantities could be toxic to the liver, there had never before been a test that could assess the extent of damage within moments of showing up at an ER.
In the United States, emergency rooms are seeing patients who either have no provider or no insurance, and the burden on hospitals is overwhelming. He believes that advanced laboratory tests will help to move patients more quickly through the process because an accurate diagnosis and prescription for treatment can be made then and there, rather than waiting weeks or even months to determine the amount of damage a patient’s liver has sustained.
Laboratory Science Advancing at the Speed of Light
It is the hope of medical professionals and laboratory scientists that advances in laboratory diagnostics might make radical improvements in patient outcomes. The faster a doctor can review labs, the faster a patient can get the treatment he or she deserves. Not only is medical science advancing exponentially due to advances in laboratory technology, but doctors are better able to assess symptoms and offer a course of treatment.
This is just one of hundreds of new LDTs (Laboratory Developed Tests) that are coming forth out of laboratories every year, but one which can make a definite impact on patients suffering from acetaminophen overdosing. Now, doctors have the ability to treat those patients with medications to counteract acute liver damage in time for a favorable outcome.