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Clin Chem. 2002 Dec;48(12):2242-7.

Stability studies of twenty-four analytes in human plasma and serum.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, OU Medical Center, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, PO Box 26307 Oklahoma City, OK 73190, USA.



The stability and stoichiometric changes of analytes in plasma and serum after prolonged contact with blood cells in uncentrifuged Vacutainer tubes were studied.


We simultaneously investigated the stability of 24 analytes (a) after prolonged contact of plasma and serum with blood cells and (b) after immediate separation of plasma and serum (centrifuged twice at 2000g for 5 min). We verified biochemical mechanisms of observed analyte change by concomitant measurement of pH, PCO(2), and PO(2). Hemolysis was qualitatively and semiquantitatively assessed. All specimens were maintained at room temperature (25 degrees C) and analyzed in duplicate 0.5, 4, 8, 16, 24, 32, 40, 48, and 56 h after collection. Statistically significant changes from the 0.5 h mean were determined using repeated-measures ANOVA. The significant change limit was applied to determine clinically significant changes in measured analytes.


Fifteen of 24 analytes in plasma and serum maintained in contact with cells showed clinically relevant changes, with the degree of change more pronounced in most plasma specimens. All analytes in plasma and serum immediately separated from cells after collection were stable.


Storage of uncentrifuged specimens beyond 24 h caused significant changes in most analytes investigated because of (a) glucose depletion and Na(+),K(+)-ATPase pump failure; (b) the movement of water into cells, causing hemoconcentration; and (c) leakage of intracellular constituents and metabolites. Immediate separation of plasma or serum from cells provides optimal analyte stability at room temperature. When prolonged contact of plasma or serum with cells is unavoidable, use of serum is recommended because of the higher instability of plasma analytes.

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