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Keywords:

  • Blood cell analysers;
  • External Quality Assessment;
  • nucleated red blood cells;
  • immature granulocytes;
  • functional iron deficiency

Summary

Recently several parameters have been introduced to the complete blood count such as nucleated red blood cells, immature granulocytes; immature reticulocyte fraction, immature platelet fraction and red cell fragments as well as new parameters for detection of functional iron deficiency. Leucocyte positional parameters, which may diagnose specific diseases (e.g. differentiate between abnormal lymphocytes in leukaemia and viral conditions and may also detect malarial infection) are now available. At this time they are only used for research; however, generally such parameters later become reportable. One manufacturer’s routine analyser allows measurement of cells by flow cytometry using monoclonal antibodies. Currently, there are no accredited external quality assessment schemes (EQAS) for these parameters. For a number of parameters, on some instruments, there is no internal quality control, which brings into question whether these parameters should be used for clinical decision making. Other more established parameters, such as mean platelet volume, red cell distribution width and the erythrocyte sedimentation rate do not have EQAS available. The UK National EQAS for General Haematology held a workshop earlier this year in 2008 to discuss these parameters. Participants were asked to provide a consensus opinion on which parameters are the most important for inclusion in future haematology EQAS.