Automation has become a central part of our lives. Robots mow our lawns and some are even able to conduct complex tasks such as cooking. Modern laboratories are also operated with robots and conveyor belts which connect analyzers allowing just one fast workflow of diagnostic samples, without them being sorted or transported manually.
An innovative pneumatic tube system (iPTS) now extends laboratory automation to the wards. Staff on wards are the last people to physically touch samples before they enter clinical chemistry analysers.
Speedy transport in under a minute
The samples were placed into the iPTS on the ward and moved through a tight tube by air-pressure without the need of cartridges. After just 30 seconds of transport for 300 m, samples were dropped directly into the bulk loader of the laboratory automation system.
To compare, pneumatic tube systems utilizing cartridges may need up to ten minutes for this distance and courier transport even more. This is before counting the hands-on-time for loading and unloading the samples or ordering the courier.
If hundreds or even thousands of samples are processed in hospitals every day, these working times easily add up enormously. Opening and loading of cartridges is time consuming, and sometimes even special cushioning of samples becomes unnecessary when using iPTS. What is crucial however, is whether the quality of analytical results gained from these samples is impacted.
Red blood cells can rupture in transport
During transport with pneumatic tube systems, the rupturing of red blood cells is the most important harmful event that might occur in this time-period, a process called pre-analytical phase. If the red blood cells are damaged e.g. during transport by unwrapped samples being bounced against the inner walls of a large cartridge, concentration of analytes in the plasma phase of the sample are changed considerably, not reflecting the physiological situation of the patient anymore.
In their study, the scientists evaluated the iPTS Tempus600© analyzing representative analytes in samples from healthy volunteers. Samples were split and transported by courier and iPTS simultaneously. The analytical results including those known to be sensitive to rupturing were compared.
Establishing efficient workflows
The innovative pneumatic tube system improves the overall workflow and reliably reduces transport as well as hands-on times to a minimum of seconds without impacting analytical quality.
No significant differences in measurement results were found for any of the investigated 36 standard analytes between courier and iPTS transport. Based on these findings the iPTS was cleared for clinical use in the researchers’ hospital.
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Juliane Suchsland, Theresa Winter, Anne Greiser, Thomas Streichert, Benjamin Otto, Julia Mayerle, Sören Runge, Anders Kallner, Matthias Nauck, Astrid Petersmann: Extending laboratory automation to the wards: effect of an innovative pneumatic tube system on diagnostic samples and transport time. 30.06.2016