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If someone has no chronic health problems (but a family history of diabetes and high blood pressure), is there a good medical reason for them to keep their old blood test results that doctors have ordered? Or is it perfectly fine to just throw these out?

I expect any doctor interested in blood test results would just order a new test. Is there any real chance they would want to look at old results, too?

  • 1
    The old results can be useful for seeing if something changed. – Loren Pechtel Apr 24 '15 at 21:47
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I would recommend keeping those old results around for at least a few years, since it isn't usually a big problem to do so. Having old records around to compare results to might be beneficial.

In many countries, medical professionals or labs might be required by law to keep your records around and hand those results over to you or any doctor you authorize for a number of years. For example, here in Germany, they need to keep normal laboratory results for ten years, for some other items this can be up to 30 years. Similar laws exist in the UK and the US (where the exact legislation is state-specific, as far as I can tell). Since it can be a hassle getting them when you, for example, move, I'd also keep copies myself, though.

The point of keeping old non-significant test results around can be:

  • to see that a significant result later is a new addition. As such, if a later test shows elevated blood sugar / hemoglobin, a doctor at least has an estimate of when this problem started.
  • to reveal a trend, for example decreasing Vitamin D levels making supplementation desirable, or slowly increasing TSH levels pointing to a beginning hypothyroidism. More tests can then be ordered if necessary.
  • since "normal ranges" are just normal for a population, and not necessarily for you (see How reference ranges are established), even a value that is marked as non-significant might not actually be normal for you. Having many values from the past can show an outlier that would be within the reference range, but is a significant result for you.

One example where a trend within "normal" levels could be of diagnostic value is hemoglobin:

Paying close attention to routine blood test results can be an effective screening system for colon cancer which, when diagnosed early enough, can be treated effectively. A new study shows that most patients with colon cancer have a history of consistently declining hemoglobin levels up to four years before being diagnosed with the disease

Is your hemoglobin 'trending'? Routine blood tests may provide early warning for colorectal cancer

Since for most people this would just amount to asking for a copy at a doctor's visit and then putting it in a folder when coming home, keeping the records doesn't appear too difficult to not do it.

3

Keep them throughout your life and bequeath them to your children.

This answer is not as extreme as it sounds, since it's a cost/benefit analysis.

The cost side

When you get blood test results - if it's in writing, scan them (these days you can even do this with your phone and apps like camScanner) and save them as a file per page. If you get them online - save the results. At this point, the cost of keeping them is quite negligible - a few megabytes over your entire lifetime. There's extra cost in consolidating them, i.e. putting everything into a nice table of result by specific test and date of test, but you can avoid that unless/until you actually need to.

The benefit side

I expect any doctor interested in blood test results would just order a new test.

Maybe so, maybe no. If a doctor is considering whether to administer some treatment, they could well use older blood tests - because those could indicate situations you might get into, or conditions you might be prone to. Plus, old blood test results are available immediately (assuming you kept them available), while new blood tests require some time. In my personal experience (with the Maccabi HMO in Israel), some blood tests are only guaranteed to return results after 6 days.

Is there any real chance they would want to look at old results, too?

Sure there is:

  • To examine changes over time.
  • To relate your result ranges when you're healthy to results while you're experiencing some ailment.
  • To relate your results to those of your siblings, children or other family members.
  • For statistical research involving many people (if you agree to participate in it).

Caveat: I'm not a Doctor. Or rather, not a Medical Doctor.

  • Welcome to MedicalSciences.SE. We work differently than most SE sites, where we have a strict policy that all answers should be backed up with reliable references so that the answer can be independently verified, regardless of the reader's background. See this list of reliable sources. If you still have trouble with this, feel free to visit the help center or Medical Sciences Meta. Unreferenced claims can lead to answers being deleted. – Carey Gregory Dec 9 '18 at 17:41
  • @CareyGregory: This question is speculative and general, and this answers deals with hypotheticals. While it could be buttressed with concrete examples, it does not require them for validity. It makes no specific scientific claims. There is one concrete claim I've made, while I will qualify due to the lack of a reliable reference. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Dec 9 '18 at 19:44
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    If a doctor is considering whether to administer some treatment, they could well use older blood tests - because those could indicate situations you might get into, or conditions you might be prone to. Not really. Either you need current test results, or you don’t need test results. // BGAs and blood tests are being automised analysed within seconds nowadays, the only reason they take long is due to logistics (in a hospital, the values are available in less than 12 hours, or immediately if you need them now). Bottom line: No one would turn to use old blood test results as substitutes. – Narusan Dec 10 '18 at 9:48
  • I'm going to repeat my request for supporting references, in particular given @Narusan's point above. It looks like your answer is purely opinion and possibly contains false information. – Carey Gregory Dec 29 '18 at 22:42

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