The science of reliable diagnoses- water standards for clinical analysers

The science of reliable diagnoses: water standards for clinical analysers

Medical and clinical laboratories use clinical analysers to perform a variety of tests on patient samples, including blood, urine and other bodily fluids. A wide range of parameters can be measured with them, including blood chemistry, electrolyte levels and hormone concentrations. Using clinical analysers to diagnose diseases, monitor treatment efficacy, and ensure patient safety requires accurate and consistent results.

Water is a fundamental component in the operation of clinical analysers and is used for various purposes including to dilute samples, cleaning and to prepare reagents. The quality of water used in these processes can directly impact the accuracy and reliability of results.

As such clinical analysers require high-quality purified water – Type II (ASTM Standard), Grade 2 (ISO Standard) or CLRW – Clinic Laboratory Reagent Water– (CLSI Standard).

Purified water ensures the integrity of the analyses, provides a consistent and known baseline for calibration, minimises the risk of chemical and biological interferences that can affect the accuracy of measurements and can extend instrument life and reduce maintenance costs.

Key methods for producing lab grade water for clinical analysers

To produce water to these standards, several purification methods are commonly used to remove impurities. These include: 

Distillation: Water distillation involves heating water to its boiling point, then condensing the vapor back into liquid form. This process effectively removes impurities, including most ions, organic compounds (VOCS) and particulate matter.

Deionisation (DI): Deionisation (also known as Ion Exchange) involves passing water through ion exchange resins to remove ions (both positively charged cations and negatively charged anions). It effectively removes ions like sodium, calcium, chloride and sulphate. Deionised water is essential for ensuring that ions do not interfere with the chemical reactions in clinical analysers.

Reverse osmosis (RO): Reverse osmosis is a filtration process that removes a wide range of impurities, including ions, organic molecules, and particles, by forcing water through a semipermeable membrane. It is often used as a pre-treatment step before further purification. RO is often the first step in the purification process for Type II water.

Ultrafiltration (UF) and microfiltration: Ultrafiltration and microfiltration processes use a semipermeable membrane to separate particles and macromolecules from the water. Ultrafiltration can remove larger particles and macromolecules from water, typically operating in the range of 0.01 to 0.1 micrometres, whilst microfiltration membranes typically range from 0.1 to 10 micrometres. 

The importance of purified water in clinical analysers cannot be overstated. It is a critical factor in ensuring the accuracy, reliability, and consistency of medical test results. Laboratories and healthcare facilities must invest in reliable water purification systems and adhere to strict quality control procedures to meet the highest standards of patient care and safety.

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