Prevention of medical errors is a major goal of healthcare, though healthcare workers themselves have not yet fully accepted or implemented reliable models of system error, and neither has the public. While there is widespread perception that most medical errors arise from an inappropriate or delayed clinical management, the issue of laboratory errors is receiving a great deal of attention due to their impact on the quality and efficiency of laboratory performances and patient safety. Haemolytic specimens are a frequent occurrence in clinical laboratories, and prevalence can be as high as 3.3% of all of the routine samples, accounting for up to 40%–70% of all unsuitable specimens identified, nearly five times higher than other causes, such as insufficient, incorrect and clotted samples. This article focuses on this challenging issue, providing an overview on prevalence and leading causes of in vivo and in vitro haemolysis, and tentative guidelines on identification and management of haemolytic samples in clinical laboratories. This strategy includes continuous education of healthcare personnel, systematic detection/quantification of haemolysis in any sample, immediate clinicians warning on the probability of in vivo haemolysis, registration of non-conformity, completing of tests unaffected by haemolysis and request of a second specimen for those potentially affected.
Clin Chem Lab Med 2008;46:764–72.
©2008 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin New York