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Automated hematology instrumentation

Tracy I George, MD
Section Editor
Stanley L Schrier, MD
Deputy Editor
Jennifer S Tirnauer, MD


During the first half of the 20th century, the complete blood count (CBC), one of the most commonly ordered laboratory tests, was performed using exclusively manual techniques:

Blood cell counts (red cells, white cells, platelets) were performed using appropriately diluted blood samples and a ruled counting chamber (hemocytometer).

Hemoglobin concentration was analyzed colorimetrically by the cyanomethemoglobin method.

The hematocrit (Hct), also called packed cell volume, was measured by high speed centrifugation of a column of blood, either in a specially designed tube (the Wintrobe tube) (picture 1), or in sealed microcapillary tubes (ie, the "spun" hematocrit, often obtained by fingerstick blood collection) (picture 2).

The white blood cell differential was obtained by examining and enumerating by class (eg, granulocytes, lymphocytes, monocytes) 100 to 200 individual white blood cells on a suitably stained blood smear.


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Literature review current through: Apr 2016. | This topic last updated: Mar 24, 2014.
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