What’s the buzz in flow cytometry?

Oct. 23, 2018

Holding flow cytometry to a higher standard

In clinical diagnostic laboratories, instrument variation and human error can have serious consequences. For this reason, automating and standardizing instrumentation is vitally important for ensuring diagnostic accuracy and the development of reliable assays to inform clinical decisions.

Until recently, the analysis of specific cell populations using flow cytometry has lagged behind other laboratory technologies in automation and standardization, traditionally relying on subjective data analysis and reporting. Other manual tasks, such as sample preparation, instrument calibration, and time-consuming daily upkeep have required on-the-job training of specialized technicians, resulting in slight variations in use and methods from lab-to-lab and a small personnel pool available for executing vital clinical assays.

Automated flow cytometers have now hit the market as a solution to this challenge. In addition to reducing the time and cost of daily and highly technical upkeep, automated flow cytometers have also made it easier to implement standardized assays that are fit for clinical laboratory cell analysis. These transformative advancements in easy assay transfer between geographically-separated instruments have the potential to create a large collaborative network of synchronized flow cytometers that would ultimately lead to more efficiency in clinical flow cytometry diagnostics.

Marisa Juntilla, Director, Scientific and Medical Affairs at BD
and Abigail Kelliher, Scientific Liaison, Clinical Solutions at BD

Flow cytometry removed from CAP checklist

Flow cytometry is frequently utilized in the clinical laboratory to include hematology, microbiology, and clinical chemistry. The principle utilizes light scatter and measurements of voltage in order to identify and characterize both cells’ or microbes’ variations in the patient’s blood sample. The optics principle of flow cytometry implements various filters in order to segregate different cells and components onto a scatter plot, for example. This scatter plot organizes the cells’ sizes, concentration, and fluorescence to measure typical concentrations of cells as well as possible outlying cell populations. This principle has found its way to recent updates to College of American Pathologist (CAP) inspection criteria.

A recent web article discussing updates to CAP inspection requirements identified that, “analyte-specific reagent requirements were removed from several discipline-specific checklists…including flow cytometry.”1 This update to the checklist was made to reduce redundancy in some of the checklist inspection items. This enables labs to more easily prepare their flow cytometry CAP inspection documentation without having to repeat documentation for multiple testing groups.

Lt Col Paul R. Eden, MT(ASCP), PhD, USAF (retired),
has 24 years of laboratory experience managing both clinics
and hospital laboratories including over 6 years of applied research.


  1. CAP Adds Imaging Mass Spectrometry Requirements to Accreditation Checklists.