OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of variations in technique on measurements of hemoglobin level done at the bedside and to compare these results with laboratory measurements of hemoglobin. DESIGN: In accordance with hospital policy, procedure, and protocol, various techniques were used to obtain samples of capillary and venous blood and of blood from arterial and central venous catheters. Levels of hemoglobin were measured at the bedside and in the laboratory, and the results were compared. SETTING: The Johns Hopkins Hospital adult postanesthesia care unit. SAMPLE: A total of 187 blood samples were obtained from 62 adults who had undergone general surgery. Group I comprised 20 subjects with capillary and venous blood samples. Group II comprised 21 subjects with arterial blood samples. Group III comprised 21 subjects with central venous blood samples. RESULTS: The results showed that the amount of blood to be discarded before obtaining samples of arterial and central venous blood need not be any larger than double the dead space of the catheter, and that shaking the blood sample for 10 seconds was sufficient to mix the sample before measurement of hemoglobin levels. Results of bedside and laboratory measurements of hemoglobin level were comparable. CONCLUSION: Bedside measurement of hemoglobin increases efficiency in patient care, decreases risk of blood-transmitted infection for staff, and decreases cost to the patient. However, the persons who perform the assay must be responsible in adhering to the standard of practice to minimize errors in the measurements.