News Brief

Pneumatic tubes cut lab turnaround times

Using a pneumatic tube delivery system for transporting blood samples from the ED to the laboratory can reduce turnaround times significantly, says a recently published study.1

Researchers compared turnaround times for two EDs, one with a pneumatic tube system and the other using human couriers. Blood samples delivered with a pneumatic tube system took were 33 minutes for hemoglobin and 64 minutes for potassium, compared with 43 minutes for hemoglobin and 72 minutes for potassium when samples were transported by hand.

The study also found that when specimens were hand-carried, they could sit for significant periods of time waiting to be picked up, because delivery was dependent on a health care aide being available.

The samples delivered by hand had a trend toward increased hemolysis, though not statistically significant, says Christopher Fernandes, MD, the study's lead author and professor and head of emergency medicine at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. "The study's findings imply that centers without a pneumatic tube system would have significant delays in turnaround time on lab samples, as well as potential redraws due to hemolysis," he says. "The end result is more work for emergency nurses to achieve the same result."


  1. Fernandes CMB, Worster A, Eva K, et al. Pneumatic tube delivery system for blood samples reduces turnaround times without affecting sample quality. J Emerg Nurs 2006; 32:139-143.


For more information on use of pneumatic tube systems in the ED, contact:

  • Christopher Fernandes, MD, Professor and Head of Emergency Medicine, McMaster University, 237 Barton St. E., Hamilton, ON L8L 2X2, Canada. E-mail: