Systematic review of errors on beta-2 transferrin gel electrophoresis testing of rhinorrhea and otorrhea

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Int Forum Allergy Rhinol


BACKGROUND: Beta-2 transferrin (B2-Tf) gel electrophoresis (GE) is the preferred non-invasive diagnostic modality for confirming cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in body fluids. While B2-Tf GE testing is highly sensitive and specific for CSF, false-positive (FP) and false-negative (FN) results can lead to diagnostic and therapeutic dilemmas. Several series have demonstrated potential causes of false B2-Tf GE results, but few studies have reported reasons for these errors. The purpose of this systematic review was to describe sources of B2-Tf GE errors.

METHODS: A systematic review was performed by searching OVID, EMBASE, and Web of Science databases for B2-Tf GE studies. After applying exclusion criteria, original research studies directly addressing erroneous B2-Tf GE results underwent qualitative analysis.

RESULTS: Of the 243 abstracts screened, 71 underwent full-text review and 18 studies reporting B2-Tf GE errors were included for analysis. There were 15 potential FPs, 12 actual FPs, 12 potential FNs, 19 actual FNs, and 14 indeterminate results. There were also 246 potentially indeterminate results from in vitro studies. Reasons for B2-Tf GE errors included serum transferrin alterations (n = 17; all potential), infection related (n = 13; 9 potential), orbital or salivary contamination (n = 2; 1 potential), and collection related (n = 255; 246 potential). There were 31 false or indeterminate results with unspecified reasons. There were no reported errors due to laboratory processing.

CONCLUSIONS: Multiple potential or actual reasons for false or indeterminate results have been reported for B2-Tf GE testing of rhinorrhea and otorrhea. Future studies should explore reasons for B2-Tf testing errors and how these may affect clinical decision making.

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ePub ahead of print