Clinical Chemistry Laboratory Automation in the 21st Century - Amat Victoria curam (Victory loves careful preparation)

Clin Biochem Rev. 2014 Aug;35(3):143-53.


The era of automation arrived with the introduction of the AutoAnalyzer using continuous flow analysis and the Robot Chemist that automated the traditional manual analytical steps. Successive generations of stand-alone analysers increased analytical speed, offered the ability to test high volumes of patient specimens, and provided large assay menus. A dichotomy developed, with a group of analysers devoted to performing routine clinical chemistry tests and another group dedicated to performing immunoassays using a variety of methodologies. Development of integrated systems greatly improved the analytical phase of clinical laboratory testing and further automation was developed for pre-analytical procedures, such as sample identification, sorting, and centrifugation, and post-analytical procedures, such as specimen storage and archiving. All phases of testing were ultimately combined in total laboratory automation (TLA) through which all modules involved are physically linked by some kind of track system, moving samples through the process from beginning-to-end. A newer and very powerful, analytical methodology is liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry/mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). LC-MS/MS has been automated but a future automation challenge will be to incorporate LC-MS/MS into TLA configurations. Another important facet of automation is informatics, including middleware, which interfaces the analyser software to a laboratory information systems (LIS) and/or hospital information systems (HIS). This software includes control of the overall operation of a TLA configuration and combines analytical results with patient demographic information to provide additional clinically useful information. This review describes automation relevant to clinical chemistry, but it must be recognised that automation applies to other specialties in the laboratory, e.g. haematology, urinalysis, microbiology. It is a given that automation will continue to evolve in the clinical laboratory, limited only by the imagination and ingenuity of laboratory scientists.

Publication types

  • Review