Spurious counts and spurious results on haematology analysers: a review. Part I: platelets

Int J Lab Hematol. 2007 Feb;29(1):4-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2257.2006.00870.x.


The widespread use of haematology analysers (HA) has led to a major improvement of cellular haematology, because of quick and accurate results found in most instances. However, in several situations, spurious results are observed. Inadequate blood samples, situations induced by the anticoagulant(s) used, peculiar changes related to the pathology in the patient, and technical considerations about performances of the various HA must be considered. Spurious thrombocytopenia occurs in several circumstances related to the presence of ethylenediamine tetra-acetic acid (EDTA) used as the anticoagulant. Mechanism of EDTA-dependent platelet (PLT) agglutination is related to circulating (auto)antibodies directed against normally hidden epitope(s) in the glycoprotein alpha IIb/beta IIIa complex from PLT membrane exposed only in the presence of EDTA. Other spuriously low PLT counts may be related to EDTA, including PLT rosetting around white blood cells (WBC; satellitism) and PLT-WBC aggregates, but mechanisms responsible for those latter phenomena are less well known. Spurious increase of PLT count may be related to several situations, including fragmented red blood cells, cytoplasmic fragments of nucleated cells, cryoglobulins, bacteria or fungi, and lipids. Flags generated in several of these situations alert the operator on possible abnormal findings and may identify the problem. Analysing only PLT parameters is not sufficient: in many situations the WBC differential scattergram is of crucial help for flagging. Flags generated depend on the software version on the HA used, the performance in detecting the same anomalies may differ according to which analyser is used, even those from the same manufacturer. Operators must be aware of the characteristics of their analyser and be able to recognize and circumvent anomalous results.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoantibodies / blood
  • Bacteria / cytology
  • Blood Platelets / pathology*
  • Flow Cytometry* / instrumentation
  • Fungi / cytology
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / pathology*
  • Platelet Aggregation*
  • Platelet Count* / instrumentation
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Thrombocytopenia / blood*


  • Autoantibodies