Hematologists rely on equipment and technologies to study blood problems. They conduct tests to identify ther patients' blood disorders and diseases. Clinical laboratory tests measure the number of platelets, red and white blood cells, the presence of blood infections or blood components that are outside normal ranges, as well as the blood's ability to carry nutrients. This requires hematologists to have extensive expertise and knowledge in operating these testing tools.
Blood Collection Tools
Collecting blood specimens is the hematologist's most basic job, and tools to collect blood vary according the source. Using a vein as a source for specimen requires tourniquet, needle and a test tube. Obtaining blood from a heel or a finger requires a lancet and a test tube. Other basic items that hematologists use when collecting blood include alcohol for cleaning the area, gauze pads to stop bleeding, and bandages. Nurses or phlebotomists also collect specimens for hemotologists to analyze later.
Hematologists use blood analyzers to assess erythrocyte sedimentation rates, ESR, perform blood counts and conduct coagulation tests. Some common analyzers include, cell counters and ESR analyzers. Using electrical or optical methods, a cell counter measures, categorizes and describes the cell population in a blood sample. Cell counters help to define the status of red and white blood cells, and platelets. ESR analyzers can be used to determine inflammation and reticulocyte counts for a complete blood count test. These devices are usually automated.
Hematologists also use cell image analyzers and microscopes. These devices help hematologists to visually assess the makeup of blood at the cellular level. Other advanced tools include blood bank automation systems, automated blood gas systems and flow cytometers. Blood bank automated systems substitute for manual blood screening tests. They are used to determine blood type, match donors with patients, and run tests for illnesses such as HIV and hepatitis B and C. Flow cytometers are used to study a cell’s size and viability, and automated blood gas systems simplify blood sampling by enabling hematologists to measure dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide and pH levels.
Hematology instruments are highly technical and sensitive. The construction consists of motors, pumps, syringes, tubes, chipsets and software. Usually, hematology devices are designed for specific settings, ranging from handheld devices to large, lab analyzers, and the volume of testing required. Manufacturing these tools often requires significant research, and companies may find it difficul to balance cost and efficiency in producing them.