Accuracy of handheld blood glucose meters at high altitude

PLoS One. 2010 Nov 12;5(11):e15485. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015485.


Background: Due to increasing numbers of people with diabetes taking part in extreme sports (e.g., high-altitude trekking), reliable handheld blood glucose meters (BGMs) are necessary. Accurate blood glucose measurement under extreme conditions is paramount for safe recreation at altitude. Prior studies reported bias in blood glucose measurements using different BGMs at high altitude. We hypothesized that glucose-oxidase based BGMs are more influenced by the lower atmospheric oxygen pressure at altitude than glucose dehydrogenase based BGMs.

Methodology/principal findings: Glucose measurements at simulated altitude of nine BGMs (six glucose dehydrogenase and three glucose oxidase BGMs) were compared to glucose measurement on a similar BGM at sea level and to a laboratory glucose reference method. Venous blood samples of four different glucose levels were used. Moreover, two glucose oxidase and two glucose dehydrogenase based BGMs were evaluated at different altitudes on Mount Kilimanjaro. Accuracy criteria were set at a bias <15% from reference glucose (when >6.5 mmol/L) and <1 mmol/L from reference glucose (when <6.5 mmol/L). No significant difference was observed between measurements at simulated altitude and sea level for either glucose oxidase based BGMs or glucose dehydrogenase based BGMs as a group phenomenon. Two GDH based BGMs did not meet set performance criteria. Most BGMs are generally overestimating true glucose concentration at high altitude.

Conclusion: At simulated high altitude all tested BGMs, including glucose oxidase based BGMs, did not show influence of low atmospheric oxygen pressure. All BGMs, except for two GDH based BGMs, performed within predefined criteria. At true high altitude one GDH based BGM had best precision and accuracy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Altitude*
  • Blood Glucose / analysis*
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Blood Glucose Self-Monitoring / classification
  • Blood Glucose Self-Monitoring / standards*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / blood*
  • Glucose 1-Dehydrogenase / blood
  • Glucose 1-Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Glucose Oxidase / blood
  • Glucose Oxidase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sports
  • Sports Medicine / instrumentation


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glucose 1-Dehydrogenase
  • Glucose Oxidase