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Porphyria Screens

The laboratory performs a urine porphyrin screen in house whilst blood samples (required for latent porphyria or cutaneous porphyria) and all samples from known porphyria patients are referred to a specialist laboratory. The sample required and interpretation depends upon the clinical scenario;

  • ? acute porphyria in a symptomatic patient: Send urine to lab for a porphyrin screen (PBG and total urine porphyrin). A negative PBG screen in a symptomatic patient excludes an acute porphyria as the cause of the symptoms.
  • ? acute porphyria in an asymptomatic patient (or >3 days post-symptoms): Send urine to lab for a porphyrin screen (PBG and total urine porphyrin) and an EDTA blood to refer to a specialist laboratory to rule out latent/resolving porphyria.
  • ? bullous porphyria (skin fragility): Send urine to lab for a porphyrin screen (PBG and total urine porphyrin). A negative total urine porphyrin excludes porphyria as a cause of skin fragility.
  • ? acute photosensitivity (EPP): Send EDTA blood to lab for referral to a specialist laboratory.
  • Asymptomatic patient with a family history of porphyria: Send urine, blood & faecal samples to QEHB laboratory for referral to a specialist laboratory.

All samples for porphyria investigations must be protected from the light otherwise there are a risk of a false negative result. Clinical details MUST be provided with a request for investigation of porphyria. This is to enable appropriate investigation and reporting by both QEHB lab and the specialist laboratories.

In the event of a positive or equivocal urine porphyrin screen, additional samples (EDTA blood/faeces) may be requested for referral to a specialist laboratory.

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Therapeutic Drug Monitoring (TDM)

A TDM service is provided in the department of Clinical Biochemistry for some of the drugs requiring regular monitoring. Please check the time at which a sample should be collected as failure to collect the blood at the appropriate time will make it impossible to compare the measured concentration with an accepted therapeutic range. Assays are of little use under these conditions.

The monitoring of valproic acid is not recommended because of the poor correlation between plasma levels and therapeutic effect. The duty biochemist must be contacted to discuss its measurement for any other purpose.

Any request for urgent therapeutic drug analysis that is not provided by Clinical Biochemistry must be discussed with the Duty Biochemist, or when out-of-hours with the duty Biomedical Scientist who may ask you to discuss this with the Duty Consultant. In some circumstances additional discussion with a pharmacist is required. Some specimens requiring analysis out-of-hours may need to be sent to the Toxicology unit at City Hospital and if you organise this without consulting the Pharmacy department you will incur charges to the trust that will not be the responsibility of Clinical Biochemistry.

Overdoses/Drug Screens

Samples for a 'Drug Screen' are analysed at the Regional Toxicology Laboratory (RTL) at City Hospital. A request for a "drug screen" or ‘unknown drug’ requires:-

  • At least 10 mL of urine in plain tube (NOT containing boric acid).  A green top (Lithium heparin anticoagulant) tube filled with blood.  Detailed patient information.
  • Clinical condition e.g. coma grade, fitting etc.
  • Current known prescribed drugs.
  • Overdose drug(s) if known.
  • Urine specimen type e.g. voided or catheter.

Blood samples taken for a ‘Drug Screen’ are of little use unless there is prior knowledge of the agent ingested. Discuss whether a blood sample is of use with the duty biochemist or duty consultant (via the out-of-hours Biomedical Scientist). Paracetamol, salicylate and lithium measurements are available on a 24 hr basis. All requests for other ingested drugs must be discussed with the Poisons Unit and Regional Toxicology Laboratory and samples sent only by prior arrangement. Any samples requiring urgent analysis at the Regional Toxicology Laboratory will require direct dispatch to that laboratory and must not be sent to the Clinical Biochemistry department. Charges realised by these analysis will be forwarded to the relevant division.


Amikacin, gentamycin, tobramycin and vancomycin are measured in Clinical Biochemistry but clinical advice is given from Microbiology. For patients with liver or renal impairment, advice on antibiotic dosage is available from Clinical Microbiology.

Assays for other antimicrobials including flucytosine, teicoplanin and streptomycin are available from Microbiology after prior consultation with the Clinical Microbiologist.

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1.1.       High Sensitive Troponin T has changed to High Senstive Troponin I

Interpretation is as follows:

99th Centile Males < 34 ng/L and Females < 16 ng/L

  • “Result is > 99th In cases of chest pain this could be indicative of an ACS.  Requires clinical assessment by cardiologist or cardiology nurse practitioner”
  • “Result indicates a detectable troponin level but below 99th  No evidence of an ACS but a second sample 1-3 hours apart is required to rule out myocardial infarction.
  • Result indicates no detectable troponin (<5 ng/L).  If the chest pain was > 6 hours ago this result makes an ACS unlikely and in the absence of high clinical suspicion no further troponin test is required.  
  • Troponin results cannot be used in isolation to diagnose or rule out an ACS.  Please use the HEART score and refer to cardiologist or cardiology nurse practitioner if advice is required.


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Management of the Menopause

The menopausal transition is best diagnosed on clinical grounds. Endocrine investigation may be helpful where the pattern of age, menstrual history and features of oestrogen deficiency are unusual.

Please indicate the woman’s date of birth, recent menstrual pattern and date of last menstrual period/day of cycle on which the blood sample was collected. A rise in follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is the earliest sign of the approaching menopause. Measurement of serum FSH is the recommended first investigation if biochemical confirmation is necessary. The measurement of luteinising hormone (LH), oestradiol or progesterone is not appropriate. A serum FSH in the reference range for the follicular phase does not exclude the perimenopause.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

HRT when prescribed (orally or transdermally) for the relief of menopausal symptoms does not require endocrine monitoring. Where there is unexpected failure of treatment, for example due to non-compliance or malabsorption, investigation may be useful. Different formulations of HRT may or may not be detected by oestradiol assays. Please indicate on the request form the HRT preparation prescribed.

The main indication for measuring oestradiol in women on HRT is in those receiving implants containing oestradiol. Early replacement of the implant may result in accumulation of oestradiol. Monitoring of serum oestradiol before the implant is replaced has been recommended to avoid supraphysiological concentrations. Sometimes testosterone implants are used in HRT. Measurement of testosterone in an analogous fashion to oestradiol may help to assess whether a further implant may be necessary.


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