College of American Pathologists
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Labs are hungry and hematology vendors are cooking

High-volume hematology analyzers

December 2003
Anne Ford

Much instrumentation success is subjective.

What works for a small independent laboratory in Spokane can be a nightmare for a large hospital lab in Seattle. But Tom Brown, U.S. director of marketing for ABX, says it’s simple to define a winner: "The company that’s going to be the most successful is the one with a product that gives the right answer the first time." Who can argue with that?

With its forthcoming Pentra 120 DX analyzer, ABX aims to meet that criterion. Brown says the 120 DX, which is pending FDA submission, will provide "one of the most accurate WBC counts available." The analyzer will use four methodologies intended to increase the incidence of reportable whole blood counts. The new instrument, which is expected to be available in the latter half of 2004, will also feature a new version of ABX’s slidemaker/stainer. "It’s not only had some mechanical improvements, but some software decision-reflex enhancements," Brown says.

Beckman Coulter’s LH 1500 comprehensive hematology automation system, introduced in December 2002, meets another across-the-board need: reduced hands-on time. "It is the only comprehensive automation system that really does the entire process for you," says Mary Beth Johnson, market manager. "It will accession the tube into the lab, balance the workload, sort the tubes, load the tubes into the analyzer cassette, load the cassette on the analyzer, and so on. Right now the fact that it can manage all these processes is getting more and more important as the number of medical technologists is decreasing." The LH 1500 is a scalable system and can work in automation or manual mode with complete analyzer capability, she adds.

The automation system incorporates analyzers from the company’s Coulter LH 700 series, which came on the market in 2001. Systems in the series offer built-in decision rules, another feature designed to maximize hands-off time as well as increase accuracy. "Decision rules will help you handle the specimens the best way all the time," Johnson says, "whether it’s the day shift or the night shift."

Along with accuracy and walkaway capability, says Sysmex marketing director Andy Hay, scalability is a key factor in laboratories’ instrumentation decisions. "In the past, there was a compromise associated with the size of the lab-small labs couldn’t afford the same level of technology," he says. "We’ve been able to focus on the best-of-breed approach, regardless of the scale of the laboratory." With Sysmex’s XE and XT series of analyzers, "we can offer the same solution to every single member of a big group without force-fitting a big instrument into a small lab" or trying to make a smaller instrument do a job that’s too big for it.

In the future, Hay says, Sysmex will expand its parameter range. The company recently received FDA clearance for immature granulocyte counting and earlier this year was granted FDA clearance for a hematopoietic progenitor cell count. "We’ll be the first to market in the states with expanded differential parameters," Hay says.

Laboratories can also look forward to a new analyzer from Abbott, the Cell-Dyn Sapphire, to be launched next year. Marketing manager Ray Bouyea says the analyzer will build on the technology the company offers on its Cell-Dyn 4000 analyzer. In the meantime, Abbott has added new features to the Cell-Dyn 4000, including the ability to run CD34, CD38, and CD61 assays.

Bouyea adds automation to the list of common laboratory concerns. "A lot of people think it’s just a track that takes your specimens from one area to another, but it’s so much more than that," he says. "It starts in the analytical phase, but the postanalytical phase is part of automation as well-automatic data review and release, various things you can do with software and not just hardware to give the customer true walkaway capability-and that’s what we’re looking at."

CAP TODAY’s lineup of high-volume hematology analyzers begins on the following page. Vendors supplied the information listed. Readers interested in a particular analyzer should confirm that it has the stated features and capabilities.

Anne Ford is CAP TODAY senior editor.