Introduction: Early recognition of elevated lactate levels in sepsis may hasten the detection of those patients eligible for aggressive resuscitation. Point-of-care (POC) testing is now increasingly available for use in the emergency department (ED). We examined the accuracy and time-saving effect of a handheld POC device for the measurement of fingertip and whole blood lactate as compared with reference laboratory testing in critically ill ED patients.
Methods: A convenience sample of adult ED patients receiving serum lactate testing was prospectively enrolled at an urban, tertiary care US hospital. Consenting patients underwent fingertip POC lactate measurement with a portable device and simultaneous whole blood sampling for analysis by both the POC device and standard laboratory analyzer ("reference method"). Lactate measurements were compared by intraclass correlation (ICC) and Bland and Altman plots. Differences in time to test result were compared by paired t test.
Results: Twenty-four patients, 19 (79%) with sepsis and 21 (88%) with lactate levels below 4 mmol/L, were included from April 2005 to May 2005. Fingertip POC and whole blood POC lactate measurements each correlated tightly with the reference method (ICC = 0.90 and ICC = 0.92, respectively). Mean time between obtaining fingertip lactate samples and whole blood reference lactate samples was 8 ± 13 minutes. Mean time between obtaining POC and reference laboratory lactate results was 65 minutes (95% confidence interval, 30-103).
Conclusion: Fingertip POC lactate measurement is an accurate method to determine lactate levels in infected ED patients with normal or modestly elevated lactate values and significantly decreases time to test results. These findings should be verified in a larger, more critically ill, ED population.