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Friday, 30 June, 2000, 01:03 GMT 02:03 UK
'Use earlobes for blood tests'
Blood testing
Blood can be taken for testing in several ways
Blood glucose tests should be taken from patients' earlobes rather than their thumbs, say researchers.

A finger or thumb is usually used to take blood for the test because it is easily accessible and has a good blood supply.

The reason for the difference in pain is not clear

Simon Carley, Hope Hospital
But a study of the tests has found that they are not as painful for the patient if they are taken from the ear, which is less sensitive than the thumb.

Blood glucose tests are used by diabetics to establish levels which are crucial to their condition.

The researchers carried out the study in the accident and emergency department at Hope Hospital in Salford, Greater Manchester, over a three week period.


A total of 60 patients took part, 30 of them having blood samples taken from their ear, the rest from their thumb.

Once the blood was taken, pain was assessed using what is known as a 100mm visual analogue scale.

Pain in the ear group was measured at 2mm, pain in the thumb was 8.5mm.

Simon Carley, a specialist registrar in emergency medicine at the hospital and lead researcher of the study, said in the British Medical Journal: "The reason for the difference in pain is not clear.

"The density of nociceptors may be lower in the ear than in the thumb, or the effect may be influenced by patients' perception, particularly as the patient cannot see the ear being tested."

He added: "Random blood glucose tests should be obtained by lancet puncture of the skin on the earlobe rather than by lancet puncture on the thumb."

The authors said further research was needed to assess the impact of repeat testing at the same site on patients who require frequent blood monitoring.

A spokeswoman for Diabetes UK said: "The findings of this study are interesting. It is important for people with diabetes to test their blood glucose levels regularly and the less painful the test the more likely people are to carry it out."

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09 Feb 99 | Medical notes
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