Journal of Clinical Monitoring and Computing

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 251-259

First online:

Flow cytometry and laser scanning cytometry, a comparison of techniques

  • William J. MachAffiliated withSchool of Nursing, University of Kansas Email author 
  • , Amanda R. ThimmeschAffiliated withSchool of Nursing, University of Kansas
  • , James A. OrrAffiliated withDepartment of Molecular Biosciences, University of Kansas
  • , Joyce G. SlusserAffiliated withFlow Cytometry Laboratory, University of Kansas
  • , Janet D. PierceAffiliated withSchool of Nursing, University of Kansas

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Flow and laser scanning cytometry are used extensively in research and clinical settings. These techniques provide clinicians and scientists information about cell functioning in a variety of health and disease states. An in-depth knowledge and understanding of cytometry techniques can enhance interpretation of current research findings. Our goal with this review is to reacquaint clinicians and scientists with information concerning differences between flow and laser scanning cytometry by comparing their capabilities and applications.


A Pubmed abstract search was conducted for articles on research, reviews and current texts relating to origins and use of flow and laser scanning cytometry. Attention was given to studies describing application of these techniques in the clinical setting.


Both techniques exploit interactions between the physical properties of light. Data are immediately and automatically acquired; they are distinctly different. Flow cytometry provides valuable rapid information about a wide variety of cellular or particle characteristics. This technique does not provide the scanned high resolution image analysis needed for investigators to localize areas of interest within the cell for quantification. Flow cytometry requires that the sample contain a large amount disaggregated, single, suspended cells. Laser scanning cytometry is slide-based and does not require as large of a sample. The tissue sample is affixed to a slide allowing repeated sample analyses. These cytometry techniques are used in the clinical setting to understand pathophysiological derangements associated with many diseases; cardiovascular disease, diabetes, acute lung injury, hemorrhagic shock, surgery, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.


Understanding the dif- ferences between FCM and LSCM can assist investigators in planning and design of their research or clinical testing. Researchers and clinicians optimize these technique capa- bilities with the cellular characteristics they wish to measure delineating molecular and cellular events occurring in health and disease. Discovery of mechanisms in cells using FCM and LSCM provide evidence needed to guide future treatment and interventions.


flow cytometry laser scanning cytometry fluorescence