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Clin Chem Lab Med. 2013 Sep;51(9):1803-13. doi: 10.1515/cclm-2013-0167.

Risks of mortality associated with common laboratory tests: a novel, simple and meaningful way to set decision limits from data available in the Electronic Medical Record.



Laboratory tests provide objective measurements of physiologic functions, but are usually evaluated by demographic reference-intervals (RI), instead of risk-based decision-limits (DL). We show that hospital electronic medical record (EMR) data can be utilized to associate all-cause mortality risks with analyte test values, thereby providing more information than RIs and defining new DLs.


Our cohort was 39,964 patients admitted for any reason and discharged alive, during two 1-year periods, at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Florida, USA. We studied five routinely-performed in-hospital laboratory tests: serum creatinine, blood urea nitrogen, serum sodium, serum potassium, and serum chloride. By associating a mortality odds ratio with small intervals of values for each analyte, we calculated relative risk of all-cause mortality as a function of test values.


We found mortality risks below the population average within these proposed DLs: potassium 3.4-4.3 mmol/L; sodium 136-142 mmol/L; chloride 100-108 mmol/L; creatinine 0.6-1.1 mg/dL; blood urea nitrogen (BUN) 5-20 mg/dL. The DLs correspond roughly to the usually-quoted RIs, with a notable narrowing for electrolytes. Potassium and sodium have reduced upper limits, avoiding a "high-normal" area where the odds ratio rises 2 to 3 times the population average.


Any clinical laboratory test can be transformed into a mortality odds ratio function, associating mortality risk with each value of the analyte. This provides a DL determined by mortality risk, instead of RI assumptions about distribution in a "healthy" population. The odds ratio function also provides important risk information for analyte values outside the interval.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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