Today’s medical and clinical labs are performing more and more sophisticated tasks. Not only has the amount of tests increased, the complexity has increased as well. Because of this, medical laboratory technicians require various types of specialized lab equipment to test a wide variety of hematological, pathological, oncological, microscopic, and immunologic tests.
The accuracy of diagnostic results heavily depends on the kind of equipment used to handle the analysis. As such, using standard medical laboratory equipment ensures consistent performance.
There are, of course, a number of smaller lab supplies and other medical supplies any lab will need such as disinfectants, hot plates, test tubes, stirrers, pipettes, cuvettes, dispensers, and beakers, but this post will focus on the more expensive and elaborate laboratory supplies and equipment you’ll need to function as a quality laboratory.
A clinical chemistry analyzer is a type of medical analysis equipment that uses either standard or integrated chemistry analysis. Common methods of chemical analysis include ion-selective measurement or photometry. The embedded systems combine immunoassay capabilities and photometric testing.
Clinical chemistry analyzers are found in many different types of labs, ranging from small clinics to high-throughput clinical labs. They are used to perform an array of tests on serum, plasma, blood, and urine, as well as therapeutic drug monitoring assays. They provide information on concentrations of analytes as well as certain hematology values such as hemoglobin levels. The capabilities of a chemistry analyzer help to diagnose and treat a number of diseases and conditions. Urinalysis, for instance, can indicate the presence of a urinary tract infection.
Some popular chemistry analyzer manufacturers include Beckman Coulter, Siemens Healthineers, Abbott Laboratories, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Randox Laboratories, Roche, ELITech Group.
Blood bank analyzers conduct either manual or automated analysis, antibody identification, cross-matching, and tube testing. Different types of blood bank analyzers are available based on methods and technology including column agglutination technique (CAT), solid-phase red cell adherence assay (SPRCA), and erythrocyte-magnetized technique (EMT).
They perform a number of tests on the blood cells for donor screening, group screening, cross-matching, and antibody identification.
The machines are used to analyze blood samples to determine blood type, cross-match, or identify antibodies. This can help treat and diagnose a number of conditions. While automated machines are helpful, proper training is necessary. They can provide a point-of-care diagnostic. Blood collection and analysis can detect a wide range of conditions including infection, cancers, anemia, diabetes, and more.
Hematology is concerned with diseases related to blood. By analyzing a patient’s blood, their state of health can be more understood. Hematology also employs more specific testing to screen for and monitor diseases including leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, as well as types of bleeding disorders such as blood clotting.
Such diseases or disorders can affect any of several components of blood, from blood cells, vessels, and proteins to bone marrow, so measuring blood cells and blood cell count can help diagnose and subsequently treat patients. Hematology analyzers, a type of automated analyzer are used to perform complete blood counts. The count includes both red blood cells (RBC) and white blood cells (WBC), and can also include hemoglobin, platelet counts, and hematocrit levels. Testing is accomplished at high-throughput rates with precise accuracy using different measurement techniques.
Hematology analyzers, or CBC machines as they are sometimes referred to, are designed to perform both small- and large-scale testing, integrate with other systems, and provide complete and efficient cell counts in clinical laboratories.
Some popular hematology analzyer manufacturers include Beckman Coulter, Abbott, HORIBA, Siemens, and Bio-Rad Laboratories.
An immunoassay analyzer is an automated instrument used in diagnostic labs to identify and quantify substances in samples. It employs specialized antibodies or antigens that interact with target molecules, forming the basis for detection. This process is crucial for providing accurate test results.
These analyzers are adaptable to labs of varying sizes, accommodating different testing volumes. Whether handling a high throughput or a more modest workload, immunoassay analyzers optimize operational efficiency.
Essential to their function are labeled reagents, typically antibodies chemically linked to markers like enzymes. This labeling allows the analyzer to measure and quantify binding events during the immunoassay process. Without it, the assay would be ineffective. In essence, the immunoassay analyzer translates complex biochemical processes into clear, interpretable results. This facilitates precise diagnoses and informed medical decisions, making it an invaluable tool in modern healthcare.
Some popular immunoassay analyzer manufacturers include Abbott, Siemens Healthineers, Roche Diagnostics, Beckman Coulter, and Bio-Rad Laboratories.
Immunohistochemistry analyzers, or IHC stainers, have modernized the traditional manual staining methods used in pathology and histology. These automated devices streamline the process, offering high-throughput sample preparation and staining, leading to quicker results. They come in various sizes, from compact benchtop models to larger open systems.
In a medical laboratory, IHC stainers play a crucial role in diagnosing and characterizing diseases, particularly cancer. These automated devices streamline the process of staining tissue samples, making it more efficient and reliable.
First, a tissue sample, typically obtained through a biopsy, is prepared and mounted onto a slide. The IHC stainer then applies a series of reagents, including specific antibodies that are designed to bind to specific proteins or antigens present in the tissue. This binding creates a visible reaction, often in the form of a colored stain, indicating the presence and location of the targeted protein.
The stained slide is then examined under a microscope by a pathologist or medical technologist. This visual analysis allows them to identify specific markers associated with various diseases, including cancer subtypes. The information gathered from the IHC staining assists in accurately classifying and diagnosing abnormal cells, aiding in treatment planning and patient management.
These analyzers are indispensable tools in a medical laboratory, enhancing the precision and efficiency of diagnosing diseases, particularly those involving tissue and cell abnormalities. Their automated capabilities lead to faster results, ultimately benefiting patient care.
Some popular manufacturers include Ventana, Leica Biosystems, Agilent Technologies, Roche Diagnostics, and MilliporeSigma.
A cryostat maintains cryogenic temperatures for samples, slides, and devices stored within it by using liquid cryogens such as nitrogen and helium, however, there are cryogen-free models available that rely on electricity. It is useful for preparing tissue samples for research. It includes a microtome to slice the samples extremely thin while keeping an exact temperature.
After preparing the samples, they are viewed under a microscope. The cryostat can provide a quick diagnosis of the condition of the tissue sections, study margins of cancer, and section samples for enzyme histochemical analysis. It is often used to help diagnose and treat automimmune and neuromuscular diseases.
Some popular manufacturers include Amos, Advanced Research Systems, Inc., Thermo Fisher Scientific, Cryomech, Inc., Bright Instruments Ltd., and Atico Medical Private Limited.
A mass spectrometer is used to determine the mass-to-charge ratio of molecules and atoms within a sample. By sorting and weighing ionized molecular fragments, a mass spectrometer can identify the molecular compound based on its weight. The spectrometer relies on an ion source, a detector system, and an analyzer to conduct a thorough analysis.
Mass spectrometry is often used to analyze metabolites and proteins, and is utilized as a diagnostic tool in clinical treatment. It is used to diagnose metabolism deficiencies, and is regularly employed for drug testing and discovery, as well as toxicology testing. Mass spec is also useful in determining whether enzymes or biomarkers are present in a person’s blood, plasma, or tissue.
Some popular manufacturers include Thermo Fisher Scientific, SCIEX, Agilent TechnologiesWaters, PerkinElmer.
Chromatography refers to a family of techniques used to separate and purify the components of a mixture for later use. Chromatography may be preparative or analytical.
Chromatography is used in the lab to efficiently extract biological fluids (blood, urine, etc.) for rapid analysis. It can be used to detect catecholamines (adrenal gland hormones and neurotransmitters) that can help diagnose conditions such as high blood pressure, Parkinson’s disease, and muscular dystrophy. Chromatography can also be useful in monitoring diabetes and determining vitamin levels.
Some popular manufacturers include Waters, Bio-Rad Laboratories, Gilson, PerkinElmer.
Centrifuges are used in both research and clinical laboratories, as well as hospitals, blood banks, and diagnostics labs. They come equipped with a rapidly rotating container that applies centrifugal force to its contents—test tubes holding various fluids and liquids.
It is an indispensable piece of medical lab equipment because it separates mixtures with relative densities, insoluble particles, immiscible liquids, sediment suspended solids, and blood.
Centrifuges operate by placing an object in rotation around a fixed axis and applying an accelerative force perpendicular to the spin axis. The amount of accelerative force applied to a sample in a centrifuge is defined as the relative centrifugal force (RCF), or g-force. RCF is measured as multiple’s of Earth’s gravitational field (g).
Some popular manufacturers include popular centrifuge manufacturers include Eppendorf, Beckman Coulter, Sartorius, Cole Parmer, and VWR.
Incubators, such as CO2 incubators, are most commonly used for microbiological purposes. However, you often find these environmentally-controlled chambers in clinical and medical laboratories as well. Incubators provide the end-user with the ability to control various environmental factors, such as temperature and humidity, within a closed area. The environment promotes the growth of different cell cultures and tissue cultures.
Technicians and researchers can use incubators to store various cell and tissue cultures, as well as biological fluid samples, within the incubator’s insulated enclosure. Furthermore, clinical incubators can be used to store test tubes and plates.
Some popular incubator manufacturers include PHCbi, Binder, Eppendorf, IKA, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Benchmark Scientific.
An autoclave, or steam sterilizer, is a type of pressure chamber sterilization device that employs elevated pressures and high temperatures. It uses pressure and temperature in combination to disinfect and sterilize equipment used in a variety of medical, laboratory, and industrial processes and settings.
Autoclaving is one of the most reliable ways of sterilizing medical and clinical lab equipment and instruments. This is due to their disinfection and sterilizing capabilities, which remove harmful microorganisms (e.g. bacteria and spores). Typical loads include surgical instruments, healthcare supplies like pipette tips, and medical waste.
Some popular manufacturers include Thermo Fisher Scientific, Precision Custom Components, Keller Technology Corp., and Tuttnauer.
Cell counters are used in medical and research laboratories for various reasons. They help perform medical diagnoses, cell therapy, and microorganism research; anywhere cell types, particles, and even small organisms must be counted or sized. Determining cell concentration is highly important in any field that relies on cells.
Automated cell counters help physicians, researchers, and scientists know exactly how many cells—dead or alive—are in a culture. For example, in the medical field, physicians require an accurate count of blood cells to figure out the correct treatment for a cancer patient. They can obtain this count using a cell counter.
Cell counters can be used to count cells in blood or urine samples to determine the number and types of cells present, or to check the viability of a cultured cell line for research purposes. Blood analysis and urinalysis can also be performed, depending on the type of counter.
Some popular manufacturers include popular brands include MilliporeSigma, Beckman Coulter, Logos Biosystems, Corning Life Sciences, and Thermo Fisher Scientific.
Diagnostic microplate readers are commonly found in medical laboratories. They are sometimes referred to as plate readers, microplate spectrophotometers, or photometers, and work similarly to spectrophotometers. However, the method of photometry used in microplate readers differs from spectrophotometers.
While a standard spectrophotometer only measures one sample at a time in a cuvette, an absorbance plate reader can measure the same application with much higher throughput.
Readers largely differ by the type of detection mode they offer. Samples that are pipetted into the wells produce, convert, or transmit light signals that are detected using a photomultiplier tube (PMT). The PMT converts the photons into electricity that is then quantified by the plate reader. The range of assays that a multi-mode microplate reader can perform is wide, but many of the assays are used to detect different biological, chemical, or physical signals in a sample.
Some popular brands include Analytik Jena, Tecan, BioTek Instruments (part of Agilent), Molecular Devices, and BMG Labtech.
PCR, short for polymerase chain reaction, is a high-throughput technique widely used for applications in the life sciences, pharmaceutical research, diagnostics, and clinical or medical laboratories.
PCR machines, more commonly known as PCR systems, thermal cyclers, or DNA amplifiers, cost-effective and highly efficient tools used to amplify small segments of DNA or RNA. These PCR systems combine the principles of nucleic acid replication with complementary nucleic acid hybridization to exponentially produce specific target DNA/RNA sequences by a factor of 107 within a matter of hours.
The device facilitates a three-step reaction of thermal denaturation, primer annealing, and primer extension, which occurs within a thermally controlled environment.
The temperature of the device’s heating block changes at specific times, spending durations of time at specific temperatures, helping to properly amplify a specific DNA sequence in vitro. The DNA sequences are used as primers that help select the segment of the genome to be amplified. As mentioned, PCR machines are used for replication of DNA and detecting DNA sequences. They can also be used to perform DNA fingerprinting, forensic analysis, and molecular cloning, as well as diagnosing genetic diseases and detecting pathogens such as Hepatitis B and C viruses.
Some popular manufactures include Bio-Rad Laboratories, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Eppendorf, QIAGEN, and Agilent.
An MRI machine is more likely to be seen in a hospital-like setting than a clinical laboratory, but the images it generates help with clinical diagnostics.
The machine scans the patient’s body, using strong magnetic fields and radio waves to interact with the body’s water content to generate 3D images of organs and tissue.
It is used to help diagnose patients without making them go through invasive procedures. An MRI scan is an ideal option to scan non-bony areas of the body, such as ligaments, nerves, muscles, the brain, spinal cord, and tendons. They can also be used to avoid radiation associated with x-rays because they do not use radiation.
Popular brands/manufacturers include Philips Healthcare, Siemens Healthineers, Shimadzu Corp., Toshiba Medical Systems Corp., Hitachi Medical Corp., GE Healthcare, Hologic. The brand and type influence how much the MRI machine costs.
Like the MRI, a CT scanner is something more common in hospital settings, but resulting images assist with diagnosis.
With a CT scanner, you’re using a series of multiple x-ray measurements from different angles alongside computer processing to create a cross-sectional image of certain areas of the patient. Using a CT scan, it is possible to see everything from bones and soft tissue to blood vessels without subjecting the patient to an invasive procedure. The resulting images are clearer than x-rays.
The CT scanner is a large device similar to an MRI machine. Patients must lie down on a table as the device scans the body. The main difference is that this machine uses radiation and generates the scanned area’s image onto a computer screen.
Popular brands/manufacturers of CT scanners include GE, Philips, Siemens, and Toshiba. Several factors impact the total cost of the machine.
Like the MRI and CT scanners, the C-Arm is something that’s typically only seen in the hospital environment.
The C-Arm is a fluoroscope, an instrument with a fluorescent screen attached used to view x-rays without taking and developing the x-ray photographs. C-arms come equipped with an x-ray image intensifier. This intensifier converts X-rays into visible light at a higher intensity, making the images brighter. C-arms are used to generate high-resolution, real-time images of the inside of a patient during a medical procedure, and allow the physician to perform immediate corrections if necessary.
More commonly used during surgical, orthopedic, and emergency situations, they can also be used to diagnose patients. The detector and generator are attached to a scanning arm, shaped like a C. The system features a computer system for viewing, manipulating, storing, and transferring images.
Popular brands of C-Arms include Ziehm, GE Healthcare, Philips, Shimadzu Corp., Siemens Healthineers, Fluoroscan, OrthoScan, and Genoray.
A bone densitometer measures the density of an object by measuring the degree to which light can or cannot pass through the object. An object’s optical density is measured by exposing it to light and then measuring how much light is absorbed. There are two types: transmission and reflection. Transmission measures the light that passes through while reflection measures the light that reflects off the object.
A bone densitometer is used to conduct a bone density scan, or DEXA scan, to detect osteoporosis. It uses small amounts of x-ray to measure bone density and produces images of the spine, hip, or the whole body. The spine and hip are imaged commonly because that’s where most osteoporotic fractures happen.
Some popular manufacturers include GE Healthcare, BeamMed, Altec Medico, Hologic, Diagnostic Medical Systems (DMS), OSTEOSYS, Medilink, Xingaoyi, Osteometer, Swissray.
Opening a medical lab can become quite expensive. Depending on your location, the type of lab, and the equipment you need, you could spend anywhere from $50K to a few million. Fortunately, there are ways you can raise funds and keep costs low.
The majority of your costs will be the lab space and the equipment itself. A lot of this depends on the area you’re operating in and whether you purchase new or used equipment or are willing to lease equipment.
Acquiring new equipment from a manufacturer ensures you will have the best equipment available on the market, but it requires large up-front payments that are typically financially straining. You’ll also be responsible for repair, maintenance, and service contracts, which all add to the total expense of buying outright.
Buying used equipment may help you save money, but still requires a hefty upfront investment to get everything you need. If you don’t vet the equipment well enough ahead of time, you could be dealing with machines that don’t function well for long, leaving you without the things you need, and without money to handle a replacement.
Leasing equipment means you can get all that you need at a fraction of the cost compared to buying new, and in some cases, even buying used. Leases include the cost of repair and maintenance, so you don’t have to worry about the hassle of dealing with annual service contracts. When you opt to lease to cut down on your costs, you can choose to lease new or refurbished equipment.