Background: In the UK, a common reference interval for serum albumin is widely used irrespective of age or sex. Implicit in this is that laboratories produce analytically similar results. This paper challenges the validity of this approach.
Methods: A three-week collection of results sent to all primary care centres in England has been analysed by age, sex and laboratory. In all, 1,079,193 serum albumin reports were included in this analysis.
Results: The mean population serum albumin concentration increases to peak at around age 20 years and then decreases with increasing age. Values in females decrease more rapidly but become close to male values at 60 years. The variation between laboratories was large and potentially clinically significant.
Conclusions: Reference intervals for serum albumin should be stratified by age and sex. Until there is greater methodological standardization, laboratories should determine their own reference intervals and not accept a single consensus reference interval.
Keywords: Serum albumin; age variation; harmonization; sex variation; standardization.
© The Author(s) 2015.