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Wilford Hall Diagnostic Immunology laboratory: center of excellence for the Air Force

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Erin M. Peterson
  • 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force Medical Service added a new center of excellence to the Diagnostic Immunology laboratory at Wilford Hall Medical Center, vastly improving the lab's ability to serve patients with allergies. 

By acquiring the latest instrument on the market for testing a patient's extracted blood  for specific antibodies associated with an allergic response, providers will be able to determine which environmental sources are responsible for the patient's allergic response. 

The acquisition of the ImmunoCAP 1000 has promoted Wilford Hall to the sole Air Force clinical laboratory offering allergy testing.  

A fully automated, integrated laboratory system optimized to speed diagnostic allergy analyses, the ImmunoCAP 1000 gives the lab the capability of completing 240 tests per hour.  The equipment nearly quadruples the lab's previous output.  The lab will now be able to test for about 1,200 allergens per day, compared with 360 before.

Gaining this new instrument will decrease the lab's turnaround time by 75 percent and is expected to save the Air Force $250,000 annually.

The new equipment was acquired through a "reagent rental agreement" by which the instrument itself is provided at no cost to the Air Force, as long as the test reagents are purchased through the source company.

Previously, all allergy testing in the Air Force was performed through several independent, outside reference laboratories. The cost has decreased from $10 per test to $4.21 per test, as a direct result of inaugurating this new center of excellence.

Capt. G. Shane Hendricks, associate chief of the Disease Identification and Management Element in the 59th Laboratory Squadron, is optimistic about holding the center of excellence title.

"Currently, Diagnostic Immunology at Wilford Hall handles allergen testing from all Air Combat Command medical treatment facilities and several Air Education and Training Command MTFs. Our goal is to recapture allergy testing for approximately 81 sites in the Air Force Medical Service," Captain Hendricks said. 

While the new changes will allow the lab staff to work more efficiently and save money, laboratory craftsman Staff Sgt. Kristin Parsons appreciates the time saved by the new equipment.

"Acquiring this new instrument has changed our work center immensely," Sergeant Parsons said.  "Because of our workload, the technicians were working swing shifts and weekends. This instrument will help us go back to our regular hours."