New lab instruments offer in-house results

This article submitted by Molly Connors on 10/15/96.

The Paynesville Area Health Care System lab recently installed some new equipment.

The lab got an Axsym Immunoassay Analyzer and a Cell-Dyn 3500 Hematology unit.

The Cell-Dyn is a unit that analyzes whole blood samples, hemoglobin, red blood cell count and the number and type of blood cells present in a patient's blood. The hospital purchased the unit for about $70,000. The lab has the instrument and it will be in use within a month.

Before, the lab staff looked at samples under a microscope and counted white blood cells. Now, the instrument does the counting. The instrument can count 100,000 cells, while humans counted closer to 100 cells, Solum said. Technicians will still review abnormal results under a microscope, but the Cell-Dyn saves the time of counting individual cells.

The lab will use the Axsym Immunoassay Analyzer to perform seven different tests, four of which were formerly sent out to other labs. The lab did not purchase this instrument. The instrument costs about $100,000.

Instead, the lab took advantage of a reagent rental program offered by Abbott Diagnostics, who manufactures both instruments. In this program, smaller volume labs are able to use the same state of the art equipment that larger volume labs use.

In the reagent rental program, Abbott Diagnostics agrees to let the lab use their instrument at no charge. The lab agrees to purchase the company's reagents or chemicals at a predetermined price for a predetermined time period. PAHCS will use the analyzer for five years.

The analyzer has the ability to perform 43 different tests. The lab is installing seven tests on their analyzer.

Technicians will run PSAs and CEAs, which are tumor markers. These tests help detect prostate and abdominal cancer. TSH, T4 and Free T4 tests are all thyroid monitoring tests.

The CK-MB tests is a cardiac enzyme marker. When patients come into the hospital with chest pain, this test is run every few hours to help detect heart attacks. The Digoxin test helps regulate heart medication.

Right now, the PSA, CEA, TSH and Free T4 tests are sent out to another lab. In the future, Medicare won't be covering tests that are sent out, Solum said. Since Medicare will pay for the in-house testing, the analyzer may become a source of revenue for the hospital, Solum said.

It takes the Immunoassay analyzer about 15 minutes to get one patient's results. It can process 25 samples in a half hour. This is the 48th instrument in Minnesota. There are more than 2,500 of these instruments in the U.S. and over 7,000 in the world.

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