Objective: To determine the most effective method for analysing haemoglobin concentrations in large surveys in remote areas, and to compare two methods (indirect cyanmethaemoglobin and HemoCue) with the conventional method (direct cyanmethaemoglobin).
Methods: Samples of venous and capillary blood from 121 mothers in Indonesia were compared using all three methods.
Findings: When the indirect cyanmethaemoglobin method was used the prevalence of anaemia was 31-38%. When the direct cyanmethaemoglobin or HemoCue method was used the prevalence was 14-18%. Indirect measurement of cyanmethaemoglobin had the highest coefficient of variation and the largest standard deviation of the difference between the first and second assessment of the same blood sample (10-12 g/l indirect measurement vs 4 g/l direct measurement). In comparison with direct cyanmethaemoglobin measurement of venous blood, HemoCue had the highest sensitivity (82.4%) and specificity (94.2%) when used for venous blood.
Conclusions: Where field conditions and local resources allow it, haemoglobin concentration should be assessed with the direct cyanmethaemoglobin method, the gold standard. However, the HemoCue method can be used for surveys involving different laboratories or which are conducted in relatively remote areas. In very hot and humid climates, HemoCue microcuvettes should be discarded if not used within a few days of opening the container containing the cuvettes.