An approach for estimating measurement uncertainty in medical laboratories using data from long-term quality control and external quality assessment schemes

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The present study was prompted by the ISO 15189 requirements that medical laboratories should estimate measurement uncertainty (MU).


The method used to estimate MU included the: a) identification of quantitative tests, b) classification of tests in relation to their clinical purpose, and c) identification of criteria to estimate the different MU components. Imprecision was estimated using long-term internal quality control (IQC) results of the year 2016, while external quality assessment schemes (EQAs) results obtained in the period 2015-2016 were used to estimate bias and bias uncertainty.


A total of 263 measurement procedures (MPs) were analyzed. On the basis of test purpose, in 51 MPs imprecision only was used to estimate MU; in the remaining MPs, the bias component was not estimable for 22 MPs because EQAs results did not provide reliable statistics. For a total of 28 MPs, two or more MU values were calculated on the basis of analyte concentration levels. Overall, results showed that uncertainty of bias is a minor factor contributing to MU, the bias component being the most relevant contributor to all the studied sample matrices.


The model chosen for MU estimation allowed us to derive a standardized approach for bias calculation, with respect to the fitness-for-purpose of test results. Measurement uncertainty estimation could readily be implemented in medical laboratories as a useful tool in monitoring the analytical quality of test results since they are calculated using a combination of both the long-term imprecision IQC results and bias, on the basis of EQAs results.

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