Short- and medium-term biological variation estimates of red blood cell and reticulocyte parameters in healthy subjects

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The integrated evaluation of traditional and innovative red blood cell (RBC) and reticulocyte parameters is a rapid, inexpensive and non-invasive diagnostic tools for differential diagnosis and follow-up of anemia and other pathological conditions needing bone marrow erythropoiesis assessment. Therefore, estimating the biological variation (BV) of these parameters is essential for evaluating the analytical performance of hematological analyzers, and for enabling accurate data interpretation and appropriate clinical management. This study aims to define short- and medium-term BV estimates and reference change value (RCV) of RBC and reticulocyte parameters.


Twenty-one healthy volunteers participated in the assessment of medium-term BV (blood sampling once/week, five consecutive weeks) and 22 volunteers in the assessment of short-term BV (blood sampling once/day, five consecutive days) using Sysmex XN. Outlier analysis was performed before CV-ANOVA, to determine BV estimates with confidence intervals (CI).


Medium- and short-term within-subject BV were between 0.3% and 16.4% and 0.2%-10.4% (MCH and IRF), respectively, whereas medium and short-term between-subjects BV ranged between 0.9% and 66.6% (MCHC and Micro-R) and 1.4%-43.6% (MCHC and IRF), respectively. The RCVs were similar for all parameters in both arms of the study, except for hemoglobin, RDW-CV and MCV.


This study allowed for estimating the BV of many RBC and reticulocyte parameters, some of which have not been currently explored. For RBC, hemoglobin, RDW-CV and MCV it seems advisable to use RCV calculated according to monitoring time and/or differentiated by sex. As regards analytical goals, we suggest using the most stringent targets found in the short-term arm of this study.

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