Radiofrequency Interference in the Clinical Laboratory

Am J Clin Pathol. 2019 Apr 2;151(5):522-528. doi: 10.1093/ajcp/aqy174.


Objectives: Radiofrequency interference (RFI) is a known medical device safety issue, but there are no documented cases of interference resulting in erroneous laboratory results.

Methods: We investigated unexpected failure of a hematology analyzer resulting in erroneous WBC counts. Hardware failure was initially suspected, but temporal association with increased power output from a nearby antenna prompted investigation for RFI.

Results: Power output from an antenna located approximately 4 feet from the analyzer was increased to ensure sufficient signal for emergency communications in the building. Interference from the antenna resulted in aberrant side scatter and abnormal WBC counts. Powering down the antenna returned the instrument to normal working conditions.

Conclusions: We have shown RFI as the root cause of erroneous WBC counts in a hematology analyzer. We propose that RFI should be on the list of potential interfering mechanisms when clinical laboratory instruments generate inconsistent or unreliable results.

Keywords: Clinical laboratory; Hematology; Interference; Radiofrequency.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Laboratory Services*
  • Equipment Failure
  • Hematology / instrumentation*
  • Humans
  • Quality Control
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects*