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Clinical laboratory mass spectrometers consist of a magnetic sector, ion trap, or quadrupole mass analyzers. These devices are often used together with gas or liquid chromatographs, or with an additional mass spectrometer. In laboratories, a combined system is used to identify pathological indications in body fluids, and for identification of foreign substances (ie toxins, lipids, drugs,metals) The masses of the compounds identified and measured are usually between one and 4,000 atomic mass units.
1. When buying mass spectrometers, computer interface capabilities are a major factor to consider. An effective interface with the facility's existing information system is useful for inputting test data, verifying testing accuracy, and maintaining quality control, calibration, proficiency testing, and patient files.
2. Facilities should examine the number and types of tests performed, before deciding on a specific mass spectrometer system. If the test volume justifies multiple units, facilities should consider the types of systems and capabilities that need to be purchased to avoid paying for analysis packages and assaying features they don't need.
3. Relying on price alone when determining the real cost of mass spectrometer equipment is often misleading. Facilities should consider the cost of replacement parts, as well as maintenance and repair services.
4. Before purchasing quadrupole mass analyzer or LC mass spectrometer units, facilities should examine safety features and environmental requirements provided by the manufacturer.
5. Mass spectrometer and quadrupole mass analyzer suppliers may sell service contracts or service on a time-and-materials basis. This service may also be available from a third-party organization. Purchase of such service contract should be carefully considered by the facilities.
6. Service-contract customers may get routine software updates provided by most LC mass spectrometer suppliers. These will enhance the system's performance at no charge. It is important to know that software updates are often cumulative, which means that previous software revisions may be required in order to install and operate a new one.
7. Mass spectrometer tests needing little or no training or experience to perform belong to the waived tests category. These tests do not require elaborate QC, and are less likely to produce inaccurate results. An example would be the no-automated dipstick urinalysis.
8. Most clinical laboratory tests, including: automated urine, blood, and chemistry analyses, are part of the moderate complexity category. These require a limited amount of sample and reagent preparation, as well as limited operator intervention during the analytical process.
9. More specific testing, which needs extensive training, falls under the high complexity classification. This category also includes procedures that require a high degree of operator preparation, calibration, intervention, and analysis; such as clinical cytogenics and histopathology applications.