What Is Platelet Flow Cytometry?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2019
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Platelet flow cytometry tests for the numbers of platelets in a blood sample and can also be used to identify specific platelet activity. This laboratory test can be performed in some hospitals as well as specialty facilities that focus on analysis of biological specimens. It can provide important information about a patient’s blood and general health, which may be useful for diagnosis, evaluation of a patient’s response to treatment, or scientific research. Patients curious about their results can discuss them with a care provider.

In this medical test, the sample is suspended in fluid which passes through a flow cytometer, a device designed to identify particles in a solution. The instrument uses light refraction to identify particles of specific interest. It provides information about their concentrations in a readout, usually in the form of a scatter plot showing the platelets identified in the testing. This plot can be compared against readings from sample specimens to allow the pathologist to identify specific concerns; with experience, people learn to read plots without references.


A technician preparing a specimen for platelet flow cytometry can add specific tags. These attach to particular proteins in the sample and will highlight the platelets that contain those proteins. This can allow technicians to identify specific types of platelet activity, which can be important for a comprehensive evaluation of the sample. Doctors can look for signs of cancer and other disease in the blood by selecting for the right markers. The result is a flow cytometry readout with information about whether given proteins are present, and their numbers.

Care providers can order platelet flow cytometry for a number of reasons. If a patient has a suspected platelet disorder, this test may provide more information and context. People in treatment for specific conditions may receive periodic follow-up testing to determine if they are responding and check for recurrence. If appropriate, a doctor may recommend platelet flow cytometry for this ongoing monitoring, in the interest of keeping a close eye on platelet counts and specific proteins in the blood.

Patients can ask to receive copies of lab tests like platelet flow cytometry, along with assistance reading them. Care providers can show patients where the important findings on a printout are, and talk about what they mean. This can help people play a more proactive role in their health care, as a deeper understanding of test results can make patients feel more involved and increases knowledge about their medical conditions.


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