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3 Criteria for Selecting a Cell Washer

Posted on Jul 09, 2024 by Chris Storey

A person using a cell washer

Cell washing is critical for preparing blood cells for pre-transfusion antiglobulin reagent tests such as ABO compatibility, Rh testing, and cross-matching. Historically, the cell washing process was a heavily manual process involving several iterations of preparation, centrifugation, decanting, and resuspension, which requires a significant amount of time and labor.

In light of recent staffing challenges, clinical automation and operational excellence have become even more important to reduce the time and labor needed to conduct critical tasks. Automatic cell washers can help free up valuable labor capacity so clinical directors can get the most out of their limited staff.

In this blog, we’ll discuss three of the most important criteria when selecting an automatic cell washer for your clinical lab. Before we dive into those criteria, there are a few baseline boxes that need to be checked for an automatic cell washer to be considered.

First, automatic cell washers are considered Class II devices under FDA regulation 21 CFR Sec. 864.9285. That means in order to be sold as an automatic cell washer, the machine requires Section 510(k) premarket notification of intent to market the device. Before considering an automatic cell washer, verify the device is compliant with FDA standards.

Next, verify the device has been recognized by the AABB as being AABB Standards-Compliant. The AABB Standards-Compliant Product Program is designed to offer assurance that products for blood banks and transfusion services are in compliance with AABB standards.

If a device fails to meet either of these two standards, seek other options. If the device meets the above standards, here are three more criteria to consider when choosing your automatic cell washer:

Criteria #1: Intuitive Programming

Depending on the volume and type of testing done in your laboratory, you may regularly use several different cell washing protocols. The major benefit of an automatic cell washer is it codifies these protocols and helps reduce variations due to human error.

Programming is arguably the most important feature for automatic cell washers, so choosing a device with an easy-to-understand user interface, flexible programming capability, and multiple preset programs will allow you to build and save the most-used cell-washing protocols used in your lab.

Look for a device that allows you to easily create and store programs by combining a series of customizable filling, spinning, decanting, and agitating steps. Choosing a cell washer with an intuitive process for building cell-washing protocols will help create streamlined workflows, increasing your efficiency and reliability.

Criteria #2: Ease of Calibration

Inconsistent or inadequate volumes of saline can cause false-negative test results, inadequate sample purity, and non-reproducible results. Inconsistency is one of the major drawbacks of relying on manual cell washing procedures.

Consistent volume of saline helps ensure lab tests are performed correctly and results are reliable. The calibration of an automatic cell washer is critical to its effective use in the clinical laboratory.

For this reason, it’s important to choose a device that is easy to calibrate. When considering an automatic cell washer, ask:

  • How often does the device need to be calibrated?
  • How does the calibration process work?
  • Do I need special tools for calibration?

For example, Helmer Scientific's UltraCW®II cell washer comes standard with an electronic flow meter that ensures consistent accuracy in saline volume, and it can be calibrated easily via easy-to-use touchscreen.

Depending on the tasks and tests performed in your laboratory, you may need to frequently alter the volume of saline used in the cell washing process. Choosing an automatic cell washer that allows you to calibrate with the touch of a button will save time and frustration.

Criteria #3: Ease of Cleaning and Maintenance

Regular cleaning and maintenance ensures your cell washer will continue to operate properly and deliver accurate results. General guidelines recommend flushing your cell washer with cleaning solution on a weekly basis, so take some time to research the cleaning process for your device.

Some devices will require a simple pre-set wash cycle with cleaning solution. Others may require partial disassembly, or 12-24 hours of downtime, for cleaning solution to soak. For high volume labs, these cleaning procedures may need to be completed even more frequently. To reduce downtime and operational disruption, choose a device with an easy, fast, hands-off cleaning protocol.

In addition to cleaning, regular preventative maintenance should be completed to ensure continued accuracy and longevity of the device. Most devices will come with a preventative maintenance plan like this:

Cell Washer PM Schedule

Check the service manual prior to purchase to make sure that a robust preventative maintenance plan is included, then check the processes involved in each of these preventative maintenance steps and compare the time and effort it takes to complete them.

Note: If you are experiencing issues with your current cell washer, consider purchasing a new rotor. Most manufacturers recommend periodically replacing rotors to maintain balance and accuracy during the spin cycle. If you own an UltraCW®II, you can purchase new rotors on our online store.


Choosing the Best Automatic Cell Washer

High-quality, properly maintained automatic cell washers will eliminate time and labor spent on the manual process of cell washing. When considering options, remember your staff will likely use the machine daily, so choose a device with a streamlined programming, calibration, and cleaning experience.

The UltraCW®II by Helmer Scientific is designed to provide consistent, reproducible results with intuitive and easy-to-use programming. The UltraCW®II is available with a 12 or 24-place replaceable rotor that fits both 10x75mm or 12x75mm tubes.

The UltraCW®II has also been recognized by the AABB Standards-Compliant Products Program. For more information, contact your Helmer Sales Representative or visit our website.

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Chris Storey

Written by Chris Storey

Chris Storey is the segment marketing manager for healthcare applications at Helmer Scientific. He has more than five years of sales & marketing experience. He has in MBA in marketing and analytics.

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