Practices for Identifying and Rejecting Hemolyzed Specimens Are Highly Variable in Clinical Laboratories

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Archives of pathology & laboratory medicine


CONTEXT: Hemolysis is an important clinical laboratory quality attribute that influences result reliability.

OBJECTIVE: To determine hemolysis identification and rejection practices occurring in clinical laboratories.

DESIGN: We used the College of American Pathologists Survey program to distribute a Q-Probes-type questionnaire about hemolysis practices to Chemistry Survey participants.

RESULTS: Of 3495 participants sent the questionnaire, 846 (24%) responded. In 71% of 772 laboratories, the hemolysis rate was less than 3.0%, whereas in 5%, it was 6.0% or greater. A visual scale, an instrument scale, and combination of visual and instrument scales were used to identify hemolysis in 48%, 11%, and 41% of laboratories, respectively. A picture of the hemolysis level was used as an aid to technologists' visual interpretation of hemolysis levels in 40% of laboratories. In 7.0% of laboratories, all hemolyzed specimens were rejected; in 4% of laboratories, no hemolyzed specimens were rejected; and in 88% of laboratories, some specimens were rejected depending on hemolysis levels. Participants used 69 different terms to describe hemolysis scales, with 21 terms used in more than 10 laboratories. Slight and moderate were the terms used most commonly. Of 16 different cutoffs used to reject hemolyzed specimens, moderate was the most common, occurring in 30% of laboratories. For whole blood electrolyte measurements performed in 86 laboratories, 57% did not evaluate the presence of hemolysis, but for those that did, the most common practice in 21 laboratories (24%) was centrifuging and visually determining the presence of hemolysis in all specimens.

CONCLUSIONS: Hemolysis practices vary widely. Standard assessment and consistent reporting are the first steps in reducing interlaboratory variability among results.

Medical Subject Headings

Blood Chemical Analysis; Clinical Laboratory Services; Hemolysis; Humans; Laboratories, Hospital; Reproducibility of Results; Surveys and Questionnaires

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