A pragmatic proposal for permissible limits in external quality assessment schemes with a compromise between biological variation and the state of the art

Rainer Haeckel, Werner Wosniok, Josef Kratochvila, Anna Carobene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Permissible limits for internal and external quality assurance are either based on biological variation or on the state of the art (technical feasibility). The former approach has a scien-tific basis, but, in some cases, leads to limits which are either not achievable under the present technology, or which are not stringent enough. If proficiency testing is mandatory, stringent limits which cannot be fulfilled by the majority of laboratories could lead to juristic consequences. Therefore, most national guidelines were based on the state of the art, however, without providing the underlying reasoning. A simple algorithm for permissible limits in external quality assessment schemes (EQAS) is proposed based on biological variation, technical feasibility and correlated to the rate of false positive results. The proposed limits are compared with some limits from several EQAS (RiliBÄK, SEKK, RCPA, CLIA, PROLARIT). The suggested limits are slightly more stringent than the German RiliBÄK, less stringent than the Australasian guidelines and agreed best with the Czech SEKK and the Italian PROLARIT scheme. The graphical presentation of permissible limits strictly derived of biological variation with the proposed limits led to straight lines with different slopes and a cross-over at the limits for quantities with a medium biological variation (e.g., trijodthyronine). The greatest discordance between the various recommendations was observed for calcium, chloride, hemoglobin A1c and sodium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)833-839
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2012



  • Allowable quality specifications
  • Biological variation
  • External quality assessment
  • Permissible limits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical

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