According to new research, seasonal temperature has an impact on the results of some of the most commonly used laboratory tests, and these distortions are likely to have an impact on medical decision-making, such as whether or not to prescribe medications.
The findings of the study were published in the ‘Med Journal’.
We were curious whether the results of lab tests could also reflect something that was happening outside of your body, according to study co-author Ziad Obermeyer of the University of California, Berkeley. “When a doctor orders a laboratory test, she uses it to shed light on what’s going on inside your body,” said Obermeyer, who also worked at the University of California, Berkeley.
“This is precisely the type of pattern that doctors are prone to overlooking. The fact that we aren’t looking for it, and that lab tests are noisy, “Obermeyer went on to say more.
Obermeyer and Devin Pope of the University of Chicago conducted an investigation into this question by analyzing a large dataset of test results from 2009 to 2015 that covered several climate zones. They modelled more than two million test results as a function of temperature in a sample of more than four million patients, with a total of more than four million patients. They looked at how daily temperature fluctuations affected results in addition to the average values of the patients and seasonal variation in the results.
The findings revealed that temperature had an effect on more than 90 percent of individual tests and 51 of 75 assays, including measures of kidney function, cellular blood components, and lipids such as cholesterol and triglycerides, among other things.
“It’s important to note that these changes were small: most tests under normal temperature conditions showed differences of less than one percent in most cases,” Obermeyer explained.
There was no evidence that these small, day-to-day fluctuations were indicative of long-term physiological trends. If lipid panels were checked on cooler days, the results appeared to indicate a lower cardiovascular risk, resulting in nearly 10% fewer prescriptions for cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins being written for patients who were tested on the coolest days compared to the warmest days, despite the fact that these results were not consistent over time.
Because the study was not conducted as an experiment, the researchers were unable to determine the exact mechanisms that were responsible for the fluctuations in lab results. Blood volume, specific assay performance, specimen transport, and changes in lab equipment are all possibilities for explaining the results.
In addition, “whatever their cause, temperature produces undesirable variability in at least some tests, which in turn causes distortions in important medical decisions,” according to Pope.
It was found that laboratories could statistically adjust for the ambient temperature on the test day when reporting lab results, which had a practical application in the real world. The cost of new laboratory assay technology or investments in temperature control in transport vans would be less expensive if this were done. For practical purposes, decisions on adjustment would have to be made at the discretion of the laboratory staff and the treating physician, and they could be made on a case-by-case basis.
According to the authors, the findings of this study may have broader clinical ramifications as well.
“A bench to bedside approach to medical research is the standard way of thinking about it. First, we develop a hypothesis that is based on theory, and then we put it to the test with data “Obermeyer expressed himself.
“By bringing on more and more big data sources, such as the massive dataset of lab tests we used, we will be able to turn this process on its head: we will be able to discover intriguing new patterns and then use bench science to get to the bottom of them. It has the potential to open up completely new questions in human physiology, and I believe that this bedside-to-bench model is just as important as its more well-known cousin “Obermeyer came to a conclusion.