Choosing the Right Biochemistry Analyzer

A biochemistry analyzer, also known as a clinical chemistry analyzer, is used to measure metabolites present in biological samples such as blood or urine. The study of these liquids makes it possible to diagnose many diseases. An example of the use of this type of analyzer is the measurement of urinary creatinine to assess the filtration capacity of the kidneys.

When choosing a biochemistry analyzer it is important to take into account whether assay automation is required, the specificity of the reagents and the level of accuracy of the measurements. It is also important to consider capacity (maximum number of samples analyzed at the same time).

Please note that some models are designed for veterinary use.

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  • What types of measurement technology do biochemistry analyzers use?

    EKF automatic biochemistry analyzer Altair™ 240

    There are several analytical methods of measurement. They can be divided into two categories:

    Optical techniques:

    • Colorimetry: This is the most common method. The sample is mixed with the appropriate reagent to produce a reaction that results in a color. The concentration of the analyte determines the intensity of the color obtained.
    • Photometry: A light source is projected onto the sample with an appropriate wavelength while a photodetector, placed on the other side of the sample, measures the amount of light absorbed. This is directly correlated to the concentration of the analyte in the sample. There are several principles here: absorbance (the ability of a medium to absorb light), turbidimetry (measurement of the cloudiness produced by substances suspended in a liquid medium), fluorescence (light emitted by a substance that absorbs light at one wavelength and emits light at another wavelength).

    Electrochemical techniques:

    • Direct potentiometry: The use of ion-selective electrodes (ISE) is widespread and mainly used for assaying ions in samples. This method is used to measure ions such as Na+, K+, CI- and Li+. ISEs are sensors capable of determining the concentration of ions in a solution by measuring the current flow through an ion-selective membrane.
    • Indirect potentiometry: This method also uses ion-selective electrodes. It allows high throughput and is most commonly used in centralized laboratories. It requires prior dilution, unlike direct potentiometry, and the results are expressed in molarity.

    A biochemistry analyzer can offer several measurement principles.

  • What criteria are used to assess the performance of a biochemistry analyzer?

    Several criteria can be used to evaluate the performance of the device:

    • Operation method: The biochemistry analyzer can be automatic or semi-automatic. In the case of fully automatic analyzers, samples and reagents are prepared ahead of time and then placed in the device that will manage and analyze them from A to Z. It is possible to set up the test chain and adjust the rate. Fully automatic analyzers are more suitable for medium to large laboratories that need to analyze large quantities of samples.
      Semi-automatic devices on the other hand are designed more for smaller laboratories or medical practices that handle lower volumes of samples. In these cases, the analyzer must set up each test individually and therefore the test rate is slower and not automated.
    • Rate: This is the number of samples analyzed per hour. The rate is greatly improved with the use of ion-selective electrodes (see question on the types of measurement technology used by a biochemistry analyzer).
    • Random access mode: This offers a high degree of flexibility, particularly for laboratories and hospitals with a medium to high level of activity. They face ever-increasing constraints and must reduce processing time while increasing productivity. With random access, it becomes possible to load samples randomly and continuously and obtain results, patient by patient, as quickly as possible. This allows the rate to reach interesting figures such as 800 photometric tests per hour.

    The key points to remember when choosing a biochemistry analyzer:

    • Measurement techniques
    • Operation method
    • The device rate
    • Sample management
    • Consumption of reagents
  • How are reagents and samples managed?

    This will be determined by the capacity of the analyzer. A semi-automatic analyzer analyzes only one sample at a time. On the other hand, an automatic device is built differently, has two tanks and includes:

    • A rack where the reagents are placed. They vary according to the type of sample and assay to be performed.
    • A rack where the samples to be analyzed are placed. These vary according to the diagnosis to be made (medical specialty): blood, urine, cerebrospinal fluid, etc.

    An automated arm will pipette reagent from a tube into a sample tube with the desired dose for analysis.

    One of the important points to consider is the volume of reagents and samples that the analyzer will need to perform a test. This can have an impact on the operating cost. A device that requires large quantities of reagents will be more expensive in the long term.

    Systems with random access mode (see question on the performance of a biochemistry analyzer) have a more flexible sample management mode and save time, while reducing the risk of human errors due to manual handling. A barcode tube system allows the device to manage the tests fully, efficiently and reliably.

  • What options are available for a biochemistry analyzer?

    Some models offer a wider range of types of analysis than traditional analyzers. They can be used for specialties such as immunology, endocrinology, toxicology and oncology. There are models on the market that can carry out up to 100 types of analysis. To optimize workflow, there are also systems that process clinical chemistry and immunoassay  samples at the same time. This eliminates, among other things, the need to handle samples between modules.

    Additionally, some biochemistry analyzers have a wireless connection to ensure better sharing of patient data, especially for laboratories with an LIS (Laboratory Information System).

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