Background: Phlebotomy for the purpose of blood analysis is often performed at remote locations, and samples are usually temporarily stored before transport to a central laboratory for analysis. The circumstances during storage and shipment may not meet the necessary requirements. If analysed anyway, false results may be generated. We therefore examined the influence of precentrifugation time and temperature of the most frequently requested tests in whole blood. Methods: Healthy volunteers donated blood in which 48 analytes were tested. Routine chemistry was performed in lithium heparin tubes, haematology in ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid tubes, coagulation in citrate tubes and glucose in sodium fluoride tubes. One tube was measured directly. The others were kept at different temperatures (4, 8, 20 or 30℃) and stored for 4, 6, 8 or 24 h before analysis. Additionally, some analytes were examined at 12, 16, 24 and 28℃. The mean percentage deviation was compared with different decision levels, including the total allowable error. Results: When using the total allowable error as an acceptable limit, most of the investigated analytes remained stable. However, bicarbonate is unstable at almost all tested time-points and temperatures. Calcium, lactate dehydrogenase, potassium and sodium are particularly affected at low temperatures, while phosphate is mainly affected at and above room temperature after 8 h. Conclusion: We established the influence of time and temperature on a broad range of analytes, which may be applied to set the limits in transportation and storage of whole blood samples.
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