The differential blood cell count is different from other types of clinical laboratory tests. It is ordered for patients suspected of having a blood disorder or as part of a routine medical exam. A differential cell count provides a lot of information from blood samples in an enumerated format, i.e., it expresses specific cell types as percentages of the total count. The test provides information on the number and types of white blood cells (WBC), red blood cells including variation in their size, hematocrit, hemoglobin value and extent, and platelet count. WBC differential count is an essential element in lab hematology and is extensively used in detecting bacterial or viral infectious disease, analysis of allergic conditions, diagnosis and monitoring of leukemia and other malignant diseases, determining the stage of HIV infection, and more. A low red blood cell count could indicate anemia, while a high hematocrit value may indicate erythrocytosis.
Performing differential counts manually is a labor-intensive, time-consuming task which can also be expensive. Poor sensitivity, predictive value and specificity are other issues associated with traditional manual differential counts. The state-of-the-art digital differential counters available today are designed to minimize sampling errors and provide quick results. These instruments are more precise as they can count a far greater number of cells than a manual differential count can. Increased accuracy, lower cost and more efficient turnaround time have made automated differential counters indispensable in modern clinical labs. Take LW Scientific’s digital differential counter which offers simple, accurate counts. It features 10 buttons for counting with audible beeps. Short beeps are heard when buttons are pushed and long beeps when a 100 cell count is completed. Soft-touch buttons allow easy digital readout and as there are mechanical gears to fail, accuracy is always ensured. Another popular model, Unico’s 8-key L-BC9 Differential Counter, comes with valuable features such as signal bell, full white blood maturation strip chart, and dual reset knobs.
The American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (ASPAN) stresses the importance of interpreting the complete blood count, stating that an ‘enhanced understanding of this laboratory test is essential to providing quality care’.