Historically, Vacutainer tubes in glass were invented by Joseph Kleiner in 1947. They are being manufactured and marketed by BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) since 1949. Vacutainer is a registered trademark of Becton, Dickinson and Company. The plastic version, known as Vacutainer PLUS, was developed at Becton Dickinson Research Center, RTP, NC during 1991-1993, by co-inventors E. Vogler, D. Montgomery and G. Harper.
The first evacuated tube invented by Joseph Kleiner was called Evacutainer. BD hired Kleiner as a consultant for the product and changed the name of his tube to Vacutainer®.
Prior to the invention of an evacuated tube system, before collecting blood, solutions for the additive tubes like EDTA and citrate were prepared and dispensed into test tubes for blood anticoagulation. Then, to identify the proper draw volume, the laboratory used to etch lines in the borosilicate glass tubes. The phlebotomist would collect blood specimens with needles and glass syringes. After collection, the blood would be transferred into a series of test tubes and sealed the tubes with black rubber stoppers for transportation of the specimens to the laboratory. For electrolyte measurements, mineral oil was added to the tubes to prevent loss of CO2. For serum specimens, wooden applicator sticks were used to loosen the clot from the tube walls (Franklin Lakes, 1996).
The shortcomings of these techniques were numerous. The patients were subjected to the ordeal of multiple needle entries to the vein. The errors during the collection and transfer process and the safety risks were unavoidable (Franklin Lakes, 1996).
The introduction of vacuum blood collection systems marked an era of greater safety, easy handling, speed, and accuracy in blood-to-additive ratios. During blood collection with evacuated tubes, one end of the needle entered the patient's vein; the other end penetrated the rubber stopper as the tube was pushed into the open end of the holder. The vacuum enabled the tube to fill with the appropriate volume of blood.
Initially vacutainer tubes were packaged and shipped in vacuum tins similar to coffee cans. This was a breakthrough at the time because previously, a heavy clamp was used to prevent the stoppers from popping off during autoclaving (Franklin Lakes, 1996). However, now there are regulatory agencies and guidelines that ensure the consistency in the design and manufacture of blood collection systems like Food and Drug Administration (FDA); International Standardization Organization (ISO); and Clinical Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI); The Medical Device Amendment (1976) and the Safe Medical Devices Act (1990).
A Vacutainer tube and the apparatus consists of a plastic hub, a hypodermic needle and a vacuum tube. Vacutainer tubes also contain additives to stabilize and preserve the blood specimens prior to analysis. Vacutainers are available with a wide range of labeling options and closure colors. They are also available with a range of draw volumes with or without a safety-engineered closure.
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