When we have questions about our health, we often brave the prick of a needle and surrender samples of our blood in the hope of getting answers. Sunnybrook’s Core Laboratory, complete with Ontario’s first end-to-end automated biochemistry lab, is where many of those answers are found.
With the automated biochemistry equipment, blood samples can go from receipt to result uninterrupted and without ever being touched by an operator, making testing faster and safer than ever before. A highly specialized team of technologists, technicians and biochemists work around the clock, utilizing the Roche state-of-the-art laboratory automation system for both testing and specimen archiving. Together, the experts and the machine process approximately 4.5 million tests per year for Sunnybrook patients, community hospitals, government and research agencies, and private laboratories throughout central Ontario.
Here’s how it works
- Blood samples are collected and barcoded immediately. Each barcode is unique and linked to patients and their wristbands, making patient and specimen misidentification almost impossible.
- Samples get to the laboratory on foot or through the pneumatic tube system, a two-way highway that lives between the walls of Sunnybrook, connecting the lab to 25 patient care areas throughout the hospital.
- A technician logs each sample and its requested tests into the laboratory information system before placing it onto the automated equipment. As the sample travels through the system, its barcode is scanned and rescanned at various points to determine its path.
- A centrifuge spins designated specimens at up to 3,000 rpms, separating the red and white blood cells from the plasma for testing.
- If a portion of the sample (known as an aliquot) needs to be sent to another facility or stored for batch testing, the machine automatically de-caps the test tube, removes a portion of the sample and puts it in a separate container that is immediately labelled with the patient’s barcoded information.
- For efficiency, the system uses two sets of four analyzer machines that can conduct 120 different tests, including electrolytes; liver, kidney and cardiac function; hormones and HBA1C. Results are generated within minutes.
- Technologists review any abnormal tests, taking action where necessary, before the report is sent to the referring physician.
- After being held in a buffer for 2.5 hours in case other tests are required, the blood sample travels to a 27,000-tube-capacity archiving refrigerator. At any time within the next seven days, the refrigerator can dispense the sample for extra testing before being automatically discarded. If a portion of the sample (known as an aliquot) needs to be sent to another facility or stored for batch testing, the machine automatically de-caps the test tube, removes a portion of the sample and puts it in a separate container that is immediately labelled with the patient’s barcoded information.