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Vancomycin Blood Level Test

Last updated May 10, 2019

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

The Vancomycin Blood Test measures the levels of vancomycin in blood. It is used when adjusting the initial dose, and to ensure that vancomycin levels stay within an acceptable range.

What are the other Names for this Test? (Equivalent Terms)

  • Lyphocin Blood Test
  • Vancocin Blood Test
  • Vancoled Blood Test

What is Vancomycin Blood Level Test? (Background Information)

  • Vancomycin is an antibiotic drug used to treat bacterial infections. It is particularly effective against a class of bacterial called Gram-positive bacteria. These are bacteria that appear purple after being treated with a Gram stain
  • Vancomycin works by interfering with a bacterium’s ability to build its cell wall. The cell wall comprises up to 95% of the membrane in a Gram-positive bacterium. Without this structure, the bacteria cannot survive
  • The outside of the cell is much more concentrated in proteins and solutes than the inside; hence, there is constant pressure on external fluids to rush into the cell. The cell wall maintains the structural stability of the cell in the face of this pressure
  • Vancomycin prevents a bacterium’s ability to produce its cell wall. Thus, the bacterium bursts or ruptures, as the influx of fluid is too much for it to manage
  • Like every other drug, vancomycin must be kept within a certain range to prevent unwanted effects. If levels are too high, toxicity may result; if levels are too low, the drug may not successfully fight-off a bacterial infection
  • The Vancomycin Blood Test measures the levels of vancomycin in blood. It is used when adjusting the initial dose, and to ensure that vancomycin levels stay within an acceptable range

What are the Clinical Indications for performing the Vancomycin Blood Level Test?

The clinical indication for performing the Vancomycin Blood Test includes monitoring vancomycin therapy.

How is the Specimen Collected for Vancomycin Blood Level Test?

Following is the specimen collection process for Vancomycin Blood Test:

Sample required: Blood

Process of obtaining blood sample in adults:

  • A band is wrapped around the arm, 3-4 inches above the collection site (superficial vein that lies within the elbow pit)
  • The site is cleaned with 70% alcohol in an outward spiral, away from the zone of needle insertion
  • The needle cap is removed and is held in line with the vein, pulling the skin tight
  • With a small and quick thrust, the vein is penetrated using the needle
  • The required amount of blood sample is collected by pulling the plunger of the syringe out slowly
  • The wrap band is removed, gauze is placed on the collection site, and the needle is removed
  • The blood is immediately transferred into the blood container, which has the appropriate preservative/clot activator/anti-coagulant
  • The syringe and the needle are disposed into the appropriate “sharp container” for safe and hygienic disposal

Preparation required: No special preparation is needed prior to the test.

What is the Significance of the Vancomycin Blood Level Test Result?

 The significance of the Vancomycin Blood Test result is explained:

  • Low vancomycin levels may indicate that more vancomycin is necessary to achieve a therapeutic dose
  • Increased vancomycin levels may indicate vancomycin toxicity, which is marked by:
    • Kidney damage
    • Hearing damage           

Note: Vancomycin is excreted through the kidneys. Thus, kidney abnormalities would impair vancomycin excretion and result in slower clearance of vancomycin. This could increase the likelihood of toxicity.

The laboratory test results are NOT to be interpreted as results of a "stand-alone" test. The test results have to be interpreted after correlating with suitable clinical findings and additional supplemental tests/information. Your healthcare providers will explain the meaning of your tests results, based on the overall clinical scenario.

Additional and Relevant Useful Information:

  • Vancomycin is also known under the brand names Lyphocin, Vancocin, and Vancoled
  • Vancomycin use has decreased since its popularity in the 1950s. However, it is again being prescribed at higher rates due to the emergence of certain antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria such as methycillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • Vancomycin destroys beneficial bacteria along with the disease-causing ones. This is responsible for some of the side effects of vancomycin, particularly those affecting digestion

Certain medications that you may be currently taking may influence the outcome of the test. Hence, it is important to inform your healthcare provider of the complete list of medications (including any herbal supplements) you are currently taking. This will help the healthcare provider interpret your test results more accurately and avoid unnecessary chances of a misdiagnosis.

Please visit our Laboratory Procedures Center for more physician-approved health information:


References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: July 10, 2015
Last updated: May 10, 2019