Should routine laboratories stop doing screening serum protein electrophoresis and replace it with screening immune-fixation electrophoresis? No quick fixes: Counterpoint

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Monoclonal gammopathies are characterised by the production of a monoclonal immunoglobulin or free light chains by an abnormal plasma cell or B-cell clone and may indicate malignancy or a precursor (MGUS). There is currently no consensus on the initial test or combination of tests to be performed in suspected monoclonal gammopathies but serum protein electrophoresis and urine protein electrophoresis are commonly requested as initial investigations. If abnormal, immunofixation electrophoresis is then performed to confirm the presence of paraprotein and to determine its heavy and light chain type. Recently, some groups have developed simplified “screening” IFE methods for use in parallel to SPEP for the detection monoclonal gammopathies. We argue here that screening IFE may be of benefit in clinical laboratories using SPEP with poor resolution in the β-region, assisting in the detection of mainly IgA paraprotein, but may be of less benefit in laboratories utilising higher resolution gels. Further it may increase the detection of trace bands of questionable clinical significance, representing transient phenomena in infectious and auto-immune conditions or very low risk MGUS. The increased detection of these bands using screening IFE would require further patient follow up, possibly causing unnecessary patient anxiety and additional follow up healthcare costs.

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