Flow cytometry

Last updated: Wednesday, 28, April, 2004

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Item Process

5 mL blood or 2 mL bone marrow aspirate in lithium heparin, ACD or EDTA.

Fresh, unfixed lymphoid or other tissue in sterile tissue culture medium. 

MethodCell suspension labelled with fluorescent-conjugated antibodies and analysed on a flow cytometer.
Reference Interval
Consult pathologist.

Assessment of lymphoid cell subsets especially CD4 numbers in patients with HIV infection;
classification of acute and chronic leukaemias and lymphomas;
occasionally required to distinguish reactive and neoplastic lymphocytosis.

May also be used to count reticulocytes;
to detect platelet antibodies, to detect cell sub-populations (eg, red cell, leucocyte and platelet sub-populations in PNH), fetal red cells after fetomaternal haemorrhage;
to identify HLA-B27 phenotype;
to determine DNA ploidy and cell cycle characteristics; and
to enumerate stem cell numbers prior to peripheral blood progenitor cell collection for transplantation.


Positive staining indicates expression of the relevant antigen.

Report will identify and quantitate cell types present with an interpretative comment from the pathologist.

See also cell immunotyping, DNA ploidyLymphocyte immunophenotyping and Haemoglobin F (HbF) - Kleinhauer test.


Bauer KD et al eds. Clinical Flow Cytometry - Principles and Application. Williams and Wilkins 1993.

Stewart CC et al eds. Immunophenotyping. Wiley-Liss 2000.

Roger SR. Hematol Oncol Clin North Am 2002; 16.