External quality assessment of flow cytometric bronchoalveolar lavage cellular analysis: 20 years' experience in The Netherlands

A. H. Leontine Mulder*, Harrie H. M. Eidhof, Jan W. Gratama

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Bronchoalveolar (BAL) cellular analysis can be supportive in the diagnosis of interstitial lung disease. The flow cytometric analysis of BAL fluid cells is complicated by cell fragility and adherence and autofluorescence of macrophages, making conventional analysis of BAL fluid cells as done in external quality schemes (EQA) for blood lymphocyte subsets, not representative. Following a procedure for stabilized BAL cells, a separate EQA was set up. The results of 20 years' experience are presented.

From each round between 2000 and 2020 the following flow cytometric parameters were recorded from each participant: total lymphocyte population (TLY), CD3+ lymphocytes, CD3+ CD4+ lymphocytes, CD3+ CD8+ lymphocytes, CD3− CD16+/56+ lymphocytes, CD19+ lymphocytes and CD103 + CD3+ lymphocytes. In addition, the eosinophils and neutrophils were recorded. The mean and standard deviation of each parameter per round were calculated. The 40 rounds were divided in four respective groups of 10 in order to compare the results as function of time. In addition the interpretation of the results of participants was scored.

The median SD in the four groups was below 10% for all parameters except for TLY and the CD103+ CD3+ lymphocytes. No improvement in time was observed for any (sub)population except for the CD3+ CD4+ subset. Interpretation of the results varied based on disease, with greatest consensus for sarcoidosis cases and lowest for nonspecific interstitial lung disease cases.

A dedicated EQA for BAL fluid cellular analysis appears to be justified as the test material is substantially different from that of peripheral blood. We show that adequate analytical and post-analytical quality control can be achieved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-457
Number of pages7
JournalCytometry Part B-Clinical Cytometry
Issue number6
Early online date7 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

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Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 International Clinical Cytometry Society.


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