Preanalytical errors comprise the majority of testing errors experienced by clinical laboratories and significantly impact the accuracy of therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM).
Specific preanalytical factors in sample timing, collection, transport, processing, and storage that lead to errors in TDM were reviewed. We performed a literature search using several scientific databases including PubMed, ScienceDirect, Scopus, Web of Science, and ResearchGate for human studies published in the English language from January 1980 to February 2021, reporting on TDM and the preanalytical phase.
Blood collection errors (ie, wrong anticoagulant/clot activator used, via an intravenous line, incorrect time after dosing) delay testing, cause inaccurate results, and adversely impact patient care. Blood collected in lithium heparin tubes instead of heparin sodium tubes produce supertoxic lithium concentrations, which can compromise care. Specimens collected in serum separator gel tubes cause falsely decreased concentrations due to passive absorption into the gel when samples are not processed and analyzed quickly. Dried blood spots are popular for TDM as they are minimally invasive, allowing for self-sampling and direct shipping to a clinical laboratory using regular mail. However, blood collection techniques, such as trauma to the collection site, filter paper fragility, and hematocrit (Hct) bias, can adversely affect the accuracy of the results. Volumetric absorptive microsampling is a potential alternative to dried blood spot that offers fast, volume-fixed sampling, low pain tolerance, and is not susceptible to Hct concentrations.
The identification of preanalytical factors that may negatively impact TDM is critical. Developing workflows that can standardize TDM practices, align appropriate timing and blood collection techniques, and specimen processing will eliminate errors.