College of American Pathologists
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The brass tacks of blood gas analyzers

Be on alert for blood gas traps

Anne Ford

With autumn’s approach, it seems time to shake off the frivolities of summer and get back down to business. And it looks like blood gas analyzer manufacturers are following suit: With a host of features, manufacturers aim to demonstrate that their commitment to streamlining the analytical process is serious business indeed.

Medica’s EasyBloodGas and EasyStat monitors were designed with simplicity in mind, says Doug Moe, vice president of business development. He’s proud that end users can perform most service on them with minimal help from the company. Since Medica has a strong presence in the international market, he points out, “we can’t have people flying to Russia to service a machine. We try to keep things very simple, very intuitive. We think the future is eliminating on-site service.”

This minimalist approach is also behind the company’s decision to limit the number of analytes in its menus. “I think the trend is towards putting more and more analytes in a single array,” Moe says. “The downside to that is, the cost per test is higher because of the technology required to make those arrays. We’ll add analytes, but we won’t do it at the expense of cost per test."

On another crest of the streamlining wave, customizable interfaces prevent extraneous information from overwhelming the user. With Nova’s Stat Profile Critical Care Xpress family of analyzers, says marketing director Ron Newby, hospitals can choose “what data fields they want to have, what order they want to have them in, defaults. They can actually customize up to 30 different panels and name them whatever they want. They have all the configuration and all the flexibility you’d have on a desktop computer.”

Radiometer America’s ABL 700 series of blood gas analyzers, too, allows users to “create customized data input fields with drop-down boxes for all patient populations,” says senior product manager Alan Beder. “So if they know they have a neonatal specimen where they would like to include settings from a high-frequency ventilator, they can have a template for that, or if it’s for an intensive-care adult patient, they can set up another template giving information for the conventional ventilator used in that area.” As a bonus, he says, “all the data input can be done directly at the analyzer” instead of at an LIS or other data-management workstation, eliminating an extra step for the user.

Then, too, the company hopes to save hospitals time and labor with expanded parameter profiles. “We’re the only company that has a 35-µL whole-blood bilirubin measurement as part of a blood gas analyzer,” Beder says. “The benefit here is, you’re conserving blood—you’re not having to collect or run as many samples.”

In streamlining blood gas analysis, however, manufacturers aren’t neglecting accuracy concerns. Philips Medical Systems and Osmetech stress that bar coding plays a key role in laboratories’ efforts to reduce error. Both Philips’ Blood Analysis Portal system and Osmetech’s Opti CCA blood gas analyzer feature bar-code readers, “so there’s no manual entry,” says Osmetech product manager Michael Lehtinen. “It takes the human errors out of the equation.”

The Abbott i-Stat, too, says product manager Joey Baugh, aims for accuracy by providing a new set of electrodes each time a test is run, “so you don’t have to continually QC electrodes, versus a benchtop analyzer where the electrodes are reused.” The i-Stat also runs onboard calibration with every test.

CAP TODAY’s lineup of blood gas analyzers includes, in addition to those mentioned here, Abbott’s i-Stat 1; Bayer’s Rapidpoint 400 series; Diametrics’ IRMA blood analysis system; Instrumentation Laboratory’s Synthesis series, Gem Premier 3000, and Gem 3100; Nova’s Stat Profile pHOx, pHOx Basic, pHOx Plus, pHOx Plus L, and Critical Care Xpress 3 Plus; Radiometer’s ABL 5 and ABL 77; and Roche’s Omni C analyzer and Omni modular system. Vendors supplied the information listed. Readers interested in a particular analyzer should confirm that it has the stated features and capabilities.

Anne Ford is CAPTODAY senior editor.