Bloodwork: Behind the Curtain

Linwood Animal Clinic features on-site laboratory analysis for most routine bloodwork and urine analysis, which means that our doctors get results faster, and therefore that our patients get treated without the frustrating delays caused by outsourcing lab work.

Does this mean that there are flasks and beakers filled with fluorescent, bubbling chemicals? Are Linwood employees required by their job descriptions to wear white lab coats and cackle maniacally while mixing these chemicals together? Sadly no. Our laboratory hardly represents a supervillain’s lair in any way. What we have in place of this array of typical mad scientists’ fare are several high-tech and efficient machines with very complex functions governed by easy-to-use interfaces. Take, for example, the process of analyzing bloodwork for a typical elderly animal.

PCV and Total Protein

MHCTThe first and most basic blood analysis we perform is a test for the packed cell volume (PCV) and total protein of a patient’s blood. The sample is placed into tiny tubes and spun in a centrifuge, where the centrifugal force causes the heavier, solid blood cells to separate from the lighter, liquid plasma. The packed cell volume is determined by measuring the resulting separated blood by percentage of volume. So, if the spun tube is 45% plasma and 55% blood cells, then the PCV is 55%. The separated plasma can then be dropped onto a device known as a refractometer and measured for a total plasma protein value, which might indicate infection if it’s too low, or cancer if too high.

Blood Chemistries

CatalystdxTo further analyze blood by testing levels of various proteins and enzymes produced by the different organs within the body (which indicate the health of those specific organs), Linwood uses its IDEXX CatalystDx Chemistry Analyzer. Testing for each chemical individually would be a time-consuming, complicated mess, but the CatalystDx simplifies the process hugely by making it a matter of selecting the proper test kit and inserting it, along with the blood sample, into an extended arm from within the machine, then prompting the laboratory software to instruct the machine on how to run the tests. Ten minutes later, the doctor has a long list of chemistry values from which she can design a treatment plan.

Complete Blood Count

LaserCyteTo analyze the blood itself, the components within it, and the overall health or presence of disease in a patient, a test known as a complete blood count, or CBC, is run. A CBC tests the ratio of white blood cells to red blood cells to platelets, as well as the presence of subcomponents such as the protein hemoglobin. Like testing chemistries, the process of running a CBC is tremendously simplified through the use of an IDEXX LaserCyte Hematology Analyzer: the blood, collected in a special non-clotting tube, is placed in the machine along with three tubes full of various analytical chemicals, some data is entered into the computer controlling the LaserCyte, and the inner workings hum a mechanical arpeggio (seriously, it’s a very melodic machine) as they test the blood.

When all is said and done, it probably takes longer to read this description of what goes into a blood test than it takes to actually run one. This means, quite simply, fast and accurate results to help our doctors treat our patients in a timely and well-informed manner.

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