Research raises questions on consistency of dialysis blood testing methods

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- New research has looked into the accuracy of a blood test used to determine the health and well-being of dialysis patients, but the results are raising concerns.

According to a release, the test produces inconsistent results, depending on which method is used.

That means doctors must make patient-care decisions based on potentially inaccurate information, which may cause kidney disease patients paying for unnecessary nutritional supplements.

"We base a lot of our decision on lab parameters, and they have to be as accurate as possible," said University of Virginia Health System nephrologist Emaad Abdel-Rahman, PhD, MBBS. "Obviously this puts a shadow on the results, and these are not as clear as they should be. You don't really know how to base a decision."

The researchers at UVA's School of Medicine and the Virginia Commonwealth University are calling for revisions to federal guidelines to address the discrepancies and improve care for patients with end-stage kidney disease.

The study looked at 24 testing methods from various companies that analyze serum and plasma albumin levels to evaluate kidney function and fluid balance.

A significant difference among the tests was found, and the researchers concluded the inconsistency compromises the interpretation of the results.

According to a release, there are two main classes of testing methods, BCG and BCP.

The researchers say none of the BCG methods tested met minimum performance specifications, but eight of the 12 BCP ones did.
The researchers recommend doctors should consider using BCP methods to get more consistent results, and they recommend that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services needs to revisit guidelines for care of dialysis patients to reflect the variation in testing methods.

The research has been published in the scientific journal Clinical Chemistry.

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