Objective: To explore preanalytic handling of urinalysis specimens.
Design: The study was a College of American Pathologists Q-Probes study consisting of two parts. The first part was a questionnaire about participants' urinalysis practices. The second part required collection of information from four specific urinalysis specimens per shift on 30 consecutive days or from 200 urine specimens, whichever occurred first.
Setting: Three hundred forty-six small hospitals enrolled in the Small Hospital Q-Probes program.
Main outcome measures: Compliance with guidelines requiring nonrefrigeration and specimen measurement within 2 hours of collection, and identification of practices associated with better performance.
Results: Almost 50,000 urinalysis specimens were analyzed. About 68% of the specimens were measured without prior refrigeration, 2.3% were refrigerated before, 17.9% were refrigerated after, and 4.5% were refrigerated before and after arrival in the laboratory. Aggregate analysis indicated that 11.2% of never-refrigerated specimens exceeded the recommended 2-hour time standard before analysis. For inpatients and outpatients, respectively, 64% and 77% of laboratories were able to meet the 2-hour goal 90% of the time. Improved performance was associated statistically with ordering urinalysis stat, an enforced policy of specimen rejection for delayed transport of inpatient specimens, and the listing of a collection time for outpatient specimens.
Conclusions: A large number of urinalysis specimens exceeded current quality guidelines for handling. Laboratories must monitor and improve preanalytic handling of urinalysis specimens.