Factors influencing the bias between blood gas analysis versus central laboratory hemoglobin testing. A secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial

PLoS One. 2020 Oct 30;15(10):e0240721. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0240721. eCollection 2020.


Background: Anemia is the most important complication during major surgery and transfusion of red blood cells is the mainstay to compensate for life threating blood loss. Therefore, accurate measurement of hemoglobin (Hb) concentration should be provided in real-time. Blood Gas Analysis (BGA) provides rapid point-of-care assessment using smaller sampling tubes compared to central laboratory (CL) services.

Objective: This study aimed to investigate the accuracy of BGA hemoglobin testing as compared to CL services.

Methods: Data of the ongoing LIBERAL-Trial (Liberal transfusion strategy to prevent mortality and anemia-associated ischemic events in elderly non-cardiac surgical patients, LIBERAL) was used to assess the bias for Hb level measured by BGA devices (ABL800 Flex analyzer®, GEM series® and RapidPoint 500®) and CL as the reference method. For that, we analyzed pairs of Hb level measured by CL and BGA within two hours. Furthermore, the impact of various confounding factors including age, gender, BMI, smoker status, transfusion of RBC, intraoperative hemodilution, and co-medication was elucidated. In order to ensure adequate statistical analysis, only data of participating centers providing more than 200 Hb pairs were used.

Results: In total, three centers including 963 patients with 1,814 pairs of Hb measurements were analyzed. Mean bias was comparable between ABL800 Flex analyzer® and GEM series®: - 0.38 ± 0.15 g/dl whereas RapidPoint 500® showed a smaller bias (-0.09 g/dl) but greater median absolute deviation (± 0.45 g/dl). In order to avoid interference with different standard deviations caused by the different analytic devices, we focused on two centers using the same BGA technique (309 patients and 1,570 Hb pairs). A Bland-Altman analysis and LOWESS curve showed that bias decreased with smaller Hb values in absolute numbers but increased relatively. The smoker status showed the greatest reduction in bias (0.1 g/dl, p<0.001) whereas BMI (0.07 g/dl, p = 0.0178), RBC transfusion (0.06 g/dl, p<0.001), statins (0.04 g/dl, p<0.05) and beta blocker (0.03 g/dl, p = 0.02) showed a slight effect on bias. Intraoperative substitution of volume and other co-medications did not influence the bias significantly.

Conclusion: Many interventions like substitution of fluids, coagulating factors or RBC units rely on the accuracy of laboratory measurement devices. Although BGA Hb testing showed a consistently stable difference to CL, our data confirm that BGA devices are associated with different bias. Therefore, we suggest that hospitals assess their individual bias before implementing BGA as valid and stable supplement to CL. However, based on the finding that bias decreased with smaller Hb values, which in turn are used for transfusion decision, we expect no unnecessary or delayed RBC transfusion, and no major impact on the LIBERAL trial performance.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase IV
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bias*
  • Blood Gas Analysis*
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Hematologic Tests*
  • Hemoglobins / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Postoperative Care
  • Smoking / adverse effects


  • Hemoglobins

Grants and funding

This work is supported by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft; grant no. ME 3559/3-1 to PM) who had no impact in the design of the study and collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and in writing the manuscript. https://www.dfg.de/en/index.jsp.