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Ann Clin Lab Sci. 2006 Spring;36(2):157-62.

Assessment of serum free light chain assays for plasma cell disorder screening in a Veterans Affairs population.

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  • 1Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of Washington Medical School, Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, Washington 98108, USA.


This study evaluated serum kappa and lambda free light chain (FLC) concentrations in a Veterans Affairs (VA) population. We hypothesized that our older, mostly male, population should not differ in serum FLC ranges from levels previously established for younger male and female populations and that the assay would improve our screening protocol for plasma cell dyscrasias (PCD). Serum kappa and lambdaFLC were assayed in 312 consecutive serum samples collected during a 16-week period from veterans whose clinical presentation indicated a need for serum protein electrophoresis (SPEP) analysis. We reviewed our laboratory information system (LIS) files to evaluate the patients' diagnoses and treatment status in conjunction with serum FLC levels. All assays and validation studies were conducted using an immunoturbidimetric method with a Roche/Hitachi 911 modular analytical system. The intra-assay variability (CV) was <5%, based on 13 replicate assays of 4 control samples and 1 blank sample. Of the 312 patients, the SPEP results were normal in 235 and abnormal in 77. Of the 235 patients with normal SPEP results, 37 had abnormal FLC values and 20 of these were diagnosed as PCD. Of the 77 patients with abnormal SPEP results, only 9 had diagnoses unrelated to PCD. Using the FLC assay in conjunction with retrospective reviews of medical records, we obtained an 86% detection rate of PCD. This detection rate increased to 100% when both SPEP and FLC results were considered. In conclusion, this study documents an important role for serum FLC assays in diagnosing and monitoring PCD in a VA population. Our results support previously established serum FLC reference ranges that were obtained in younger, male and female populations. Using the serum FLC results in conjunction with SPEP results improves the sensitivity and specificity for managing VA patients whose clinical presentation indicates the need to evaluate PCD.

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