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Clin Chem. 2016 Sep;62(9):1255-63. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2016.258962. Epub 2016 Jul 6.

Analytical Bias Exceeding Desirable Quality Goal in 4 out of 5 Common Immunoassays: Results of a Native Single Serum Sample External Quality Assessment Program for Cobalamin, Folate, Ferritin, Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone, and Free T4 Analyses.

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The Norwegian Clinical Chemistry EQA program, Bergen, Norway;
The Norwegian Clinical Chemistry EQA program, Bergen, Norway;
Department of Medical Biochemistry, Oslo University Hospital and Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway;
Laboratory of Clinical Biochemistry, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway.



We undertook this study to evaluate method differences for 5 components analyzed by immunoassays, to explore whether the use of method-dependent reference intervals may compensate for method differences, and to investigate commutability of external quality assessment (EQA) materials.


Twenty fresh native single serum samples, a fresh native serum pool, Nordic Federation of Clinical Chemistry Reference Serum X (serum X) (serum pool), and 2 EQA materials were sent to 38 laboratories for measurement of cobalamin, folate, ferritin, free T4, and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) by 5 different measurement procedures [Roche Cobas (n = 15), Roche Modular (n = 4), Abbott Architect (n = 8), Beckman Coulter Unicel (n = 2), and Siemens ADVIA Centaur (n = 9)]. The target value for each component was calculated based on the mean of method means or measured by a reference measurement procedure (free T4). Quality specifications were based on biological variation. Local reference intervals were reported from all laboratories.


Method differences that exceeded acceptable bias were found for all components except folate. Free T4 differences from the uncommonly used reference measurement procedure were large. Reference intervals differed between measurement procedures but also within 1 measurement procedure. The serum X material was commutable for all components and measurement procedures, whereas the EQA materials were noncommutable in 13 of 50 occasions (5 components, 5 methods, 2 EQA materials).


The bias between the measurement procedures was unacceptably large in 4/5 tested components. Traceability to reference materials as claimed by the manufacturers did not lead to acceptable harmonization. Adjustment of reference intervals in accordance with method differences and use of commutable EQA samples are not implemented commonly.

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