To maintain the consistency of laboratory test results, between-reagent lot variation should be verified before using new reagent lots in clinical laboratory. Although the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI) document EP26-A deals with this issue, evaluation of reagent lot-to-lot difference is challenging in reality. We aim to investigate a practical way for determining between-reagent lot variation using real-world data in clinical chemistry. The CLSI EP26-A protocol was applied to 83 chemistry tests in three clinical labs. Three criteria were used to define the critical difference (CD) of each test as follows: reference change value and total allowable error, which are based on biological variation, and acceptable limits by external quality assurance agencies. The sample size and rejection limits that could detect CD between-reagent lots were determined. For more than half of chemistry tests, reagent lot-to-lot differences could be evaluated using only one patient sample per decision level. In many cases, the rejection limit that could detect reagent lot-to-lot difference with ≥90% probability was 0.6 times CD. However, the sample size and rejection limits vary depending on how the CD is defined. In some cases, impractical sample size or rejection limits were obtained. In some cases, information on sample size and rejection limit that met intended statistical power was not found in EP26-A. The CLSI EP26-A did not provide all necessary answers. Alternative practical approaches are suggested when CLSI EP26-A does not provide guidance.
- critical difference
- reagent lot-to-lot variation