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May 8, 2015
The European Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (EFLM) is urging companies that manufacture blood collection tubes around the world to standardize their stopper colors. Authors of an article published in Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine affiliated with EFLM cite the risk to patients when tubes from one manufacturer are replaced by those for another with different color-coded stoppers.
While color-coding is harmonized by manufacturers supplying the North American healthcare industry, stopper colors vary considerably around the world. In the article, stopper colors from 7 tube manufacturers were compared. EDTA, coded as lavender-stoppers in North America, are red in other countries. Heparin tubes, green stoppers in North America, are orange elsewhere. Clot activator tube can be red (North America), white, brown or gold. The various tube manufacturers were not identified in the article.
The authors report a four-fold increase in the frequency of collection errors when facilities change tubes to a manufacturer that uses a different color code, and samples are drawn in the wrong container.