A capillary sample is a blood sample collected by pricking the skin. Capillaries are tiny blood vessels near the surface of the skin.
Blood sample - capillary; Fingerstick; Heelstick
How the test is performed
Some blood tests are performed on blood obtained by pricking the skin of the finger, heel, or other areas and collecting a drop (or a few drops) of blood on a test strip or into a small container.
The area is cleansed with antiseptic and pricked with a sharp needle or a lancet. The blood may be collected in a pipette (small glass tube), on a slide, onto a test strip, or into a small container. Cotton or a bandage may be applied to the puncture site if there is any continued bleeding.
How to prepare for the test
How the test will feel
Some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.
Why the test is performed
Blood transports oxygen, food, waste products, and other materials within the body. It also helps regulate body temperature. Blood is made up of a fluid called plasma and cells. Plasma contains various dissolved substances. The cellular portion consists primarily of red blood cells, but also includes white blood cells and
Because blood has multiple functions, tests on the blood or its components can provide valuable clues in the diagnosis of a multitude of medical conditions.
Capillary blood sampling offers several advantages:
- It is relatively easy to obtain (it can be difficult to obtain blood from the veins, especially in infants).
- There are several collection sites on the body (heel, fingertips, etc.) and these can be rotated.
- Testing can be performed at home and with minimal training. For example, diabetics must check their blood sugar several times a day using capillary blood sampling.
There are some disadvantages to capillary blood sampling.
- Only a limited amount of blood can be obtained using this method.
- There are some risks associated with the procedure (see below).
- Capillary blood sampling may provide inaccurate results, such as falsely elevated sugar, electrolyte, and blood count values.
Review Date: 05/01/2011
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.