Collecting, storing and testing medical specimens is a delicate and intricate process that requires proper care and the correct tools and equipment. Modern-day medical labs function under strict guidelines in order to ensure the safety and correct handling of lab specimens.
Here are a few of the different types of equipment used in laboratory testing to meet these standards and guidelines.
The preservation of samples is an important part of the process, and it’s crucial that they are stored correctly, in a sterile environment and at the exact right temperatures. A controlled rate freezer or similar form of preservation is often used as these freezers offer flexible freezing at different temperatures and can hold diverse sample types.
Preserving and storing samples at the right temperatures helps to ensure that the specimens are not compromised in any way, thereby preventing false results, misdiagnoses and inaccurate prescriptions.
Aside from just storing specimens, laboratory work often involves the growth of microbiological specimens, cultures, cell cultures, blood specimens and more. Unlike preservation equipment, not all incubators are refrigerated.
Some different types of incubators include CO2 incubators, refrigerated incubators, drospholia incubators and shaking incubators, all of which serve a different purpose – plant or insect studies, contamination elimination, growth or culturing and more.
Incubators are used regularly in the medical industry, but are also commonly used in other industries for the storage of various materials.
Alongside incubators are water baths, which are used to maintain samples by means of heating rather than cooling or freezing.
Some commonly used types of water baths include high clearance baths, forced-age testing baths, digital baths, shaking baths and even mini baths for smaller specimens.
Of course, each of these serves a different purpose, ranging from food and beverage testing to the control and constant movement of different types of specimens.
In order to actually test the specimens collected, different types of analysers are typically used.
A clinical chemistry analyser is used to perform various tests on serum, plasma, blood, urine and other tests and these provide information that can help to diagnose and treat an array of diseases.
Blood bank analysers are used to analyse blood samples to determine blood types and identify antibodies, helping also to diagnose various conditions such as infections, certain types of cancers, diabetes and more.
Finally, haematology analysers are also used to analyse blood samples by performing complete blood counts, and use more specific testing to screen for blood-related diseases like leukaemia and lymphoma.
Laboratories use equipment called autoclaves or steam sterilisers, which use pressure and high temperatures to disinfect and sterilise other equipment to be used.
Sterilisation can remove harmful bacteria that might compromise medical instruments or containers used to store samples. This sterilisation process is a key aspect in any medical lab as it ensures the safety of preservation of samples, and further, of a patient who needs to come into contact with any equipment.