In-Clinic Hematology Analyzers: Beyond the Complete Blood Count

There are many aspects of in-clinic analyzers that have a significant impact on a veterinarian's experience. These extend beyond the results themselves and include the resources to ensure quality and to support clinical interpretation of results.

Ease of operation and required maintenance, for instance, will vary between instruments. For hematology analyzers, this includes the basics of how samples are introduced and the processing time for results, daily start-up procedures, handling of reagents, and periodic cleaning. There are other significant differences between analyzers that may be less immediately apparent but warrant understanding and consideration. Here's what you should consider when it comes to hematology analyzers.

The Importance of Quality

Quality control (QC) for hematology analyzers involves control of the processes involved in the blood analysis itself, whereas quality assurance (QA) is broader and encompasses the entire diagnostic process, from blood collection to the complete blood count (CBC) interpretation.

  • Quality control: QC directives are aimed at ensuring the appropriate functioning of the analyzer and identifying any analyzer issues. Ideally, the manufacturer provides detailed and clear QC protocols, including testing materials and schedules, and dedicated lab personnel follow these protocols explicitly to ensure validity of the reported CBC data.
  • Quality assurance: QA additionally aims to eliminate preanalytical problems, like those affecting sample collection, that can impact the blood analysis, as well as post-analytical problems, like results reporting, where there may be transcription errors or inaccurate data interpretation.

Some analyzers provide cytograms along with the numerical CBC data, allowing for a pictorial overview of the analyzed cells and creating patterns which, when compared with "normal" cytograms from healthy pets, provide further diagnostic information. For some analyzers, flagging data may additionally alert the veterinarian to abnormalities with the sample or problems with the analysis process. Helpful interpretive aids may be provided to alert clinicians that the results suggest particular pathophysiologic processes that may be occurring in the animal. Less advanced analyzers report results or even spurious data from pathologic samples without any notification or guidance.

Connectivity of In-Clinic Analyzers

It is important to consider the capability of a hematology analyzer to connect to the other suite of in-clinic analyzers, facilitating a single, comprehensive laboratory report. This not only aids in the proper interpretation of the complete data, but it also improves the communication of laboratory results to clients and colleagues.

Furthermore, having the ability to integrate the analyzers and lab data into a practice management system simplifies workflow, prevents errors in data transcription into patient records, and helps to ensure that no lab billing charges are missed. Additionally, integration of the patients' current and historical lab data facilitates trending of their lab results which increases the sensitivity in disease detection and monitoring of response to treatment.

Choosing a Diagnostic Partner

Lastly, one should consider that the diagnostic capabilities of point-of-care analyzers are maximized and further enhanced when partnered with large reference labs.

This connection facilitates access to a much larger menu of additional tests from the reference lab, which can be requested as needed. As well, the support provided by larger diagnostic companies—including technical troubleshooting, various training and education opportunities, and medical consulting services with board-certified veterinary specialists—is impactful in helping practitioners make the most of their diagnostic testing.

Holly Brown

Dr. Brown is a board-certified clinical pathologist with a passion for the practice of veterinary medicine. She left academia for a unique specialty position at a bustling general, referral, and emergency small-animal hospital in central Pennsylvania. There she enjoys contributing her pathology expertise patient-side, overseeing laboratory diagnostics, advising and educating clinicians and staff, and communicating with owners to help them better understand their pets’ laboratory abnormalities. Dr. Brown also provides continuing education on the value of laboratory diagnostics all over the globe. The views and opinions in this piece are the authors own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of either The Vetiverse or IDEXX.

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