Transportation of laboratory specimens via highway or air is governed by multiple state and federal regulatory agencies. Two categories of material recognized are: "diagnostic specimens" and "infectious substances."

Diagnostic specimens

Diagnostic specimens are any human or animal material (excluding live infected animals) such as excreta, secreta, blood and blood components, tissue and tissue fluids shipped for the purpose of diagnosis. Diagnostic specimens, not known to be or thought likely not to be infectious, are excluded from the requirements for shipping infectious substances.

In general, specimens such as blood, urine and tissue submitted for analysis are considered to be "diagnostic specimens."

Each specimen is required to have two identifiers that match the patient's information on the requisition submitted with the specimen. The identifiers may be any two of the following:

  • Patient’s first and last name
  • Patient’s date of birth
  • Medical record number
  • Social Security number
  • Unique specimen identifier at your facility

Failure to comply with this policy may result in:

  • Specimen rejection – test not performed
  • Specimen returned to the ordering facility for corrective action, causing a delay in testing

The key to compliance is for the two identifiers on the specimen to match two identifiers on the requisition submitted with the specimen. The common goal is to provide the best patient care by providing accurate test results. 

Specimens shipped as "diagnostic specimens" should not exceed 500 mL in volume per individual primary container. Each container should be kept from contact with each other. There must be sufficient absorbent material to absorb the entire contents of all of the primary containers.

For further information consult the UIDL Test Directory.

Infectious substances

Infectious substances are specimens known to contain, or thought likely to contain pathogens. These specimens are capable of spreading disease upon exposure. These specimens must be identified as "infectious" when shipped. Specimens not identified as "infectious" are considered Diagnostic Specimens.

Infectious substances prepared for transportation should follow the Department of Transportation (DOT) and International Air Transportation Association (IATA) regulations for Shipper Training, Specimen Preparation, Inner Packaging, Outer Packaging and the Shipper’s Declaration of Dangerous Goods for Infectious Substances.