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Metabolism. 1999 Dec;48(12):1498-502.

The narrow therapeutic window of glycated hemoglobin and assay variability.

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  • 1Diabetes Research Program and the Department of Medicine, University of California, Irvine 92697, USA.


Glycated hemoglobin is measured by a variety of assays, each of which has a unique normal level. Our purpose is to show that among the different assays available in the United States, using the same patient's blood sample, assay results may vary widely and may more or less easily achieve a glycated hemoglobin value within the normal range. The following assays were compared using the same patient's blood sample for each pair of assays: glycohemoglobin affinity assay (GHB Reader; Isolab, Akron, OH) versus gel electrophoresis assay (n = 76); Isolab versus ion capture assay (IMX; Abbott Laboratories, Irving, TX) (n = 57); monoclonal antibody assay (DCA2000; Bayer Diagnostics, Pittsburgh, PA) versus IMX (n = 100); and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) assay (Bio-Rad Variant A1c; Bio-Rad Laboratories, Richmond, CA) versus IMX assay (n = 55). Our analyses indicate that a relative ranking can be established for the ease of achieving a normal glycated hemoglobin level. The ranking indicates that the most stringent or difficult assays for achieving a normal level are the Isolab and DCA2000 assays. The intermediate assays are the IMX and Bio-Rad Variant, and the easiest method for achieving a normal value is the gel electrophoresis assay. Our results indicate that various glycated hemoglobin assays vary widely and are associated with more or less difficulty for an individual patient to achieve a glycated hemoglobin level within the normal range. These results are especially significant with respect to (1) the clinically narrow therapeutic window of glycated hemoglobin values in type 1 diabetes to avoid rapidly advancing severe hypoglycemia rates and chronic microvascular complication rates, and (2) the glycated hemoglobin threshold for rapidly advancing macrovascular disease in both type 1 and type 2 patients.

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