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Assessing the quality of glucose monitor studies: a critical evaluation of published reports.

Glucose monitors, when used in conjunction with appropriate interventional treatment, can effectively improve glycemic control (1). The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)[3] has cleared more than 200 glucose monitors for home and institutional use (2). To ascertain whether or not a monitor is acceptable for its intended use, the FDA carefully reviews clinical and laboratory evidence provided by the device manufacturer (3).

Clinicians are advised to evaluate medical devices before initial use (4). Some glucose monitor evaluations published by clinicians have reported poor results and have concluded that data from glucose monitors are unreliable (5), unsatisfactory (6), or show concentration dependency (7). Other clinicians have reported positive results--in some cases using the same monitor--and have concluded that data from glucose monitors are accurate and meet performance expectations (8, 9). This inconsistency in the literature is problematic because it causes confusion and may slow adoption of new indications for glucose monitors (e.g., continuous glucose monitoring).

Four potential sources of error must be considered in the evaluation of any analytical device: (a) analytical imprecision, (b) analytical bias, (c) protocol-specific bias, and (d) random patient interferences (10). Device manufacturers are generally knowledgeable about these sources of error and carefully follow procedures to control them. Bias and imprecision are controlled by testing products that conform to specifications, protocol-specific bias by adherence to careful study design, and random patient interferences by inclusion and exclusion criteria for recruitment of study participants.

Clinicians performing evaluation studies also need to be cognizant of protocol-design factors and potential sources of error (11). Guidelines have been published in an attempt to educate clinicians on proper study methodology and reporting (12, 13). Although the Standards for Reporting Diagnostic Accuracy (STARD) guidelines are intended for studies of diagnostic accuracy (13) rather than for studies of analytical performance, many of the items of the STARD checklist are important for the readers' interpretation of either type of study. The purpose of our study was to compare recent reports on blood glucose monitor performance to these guidelines.


Materials and Methods


We searched the PubMed database for articles from August 2002 to November 2006 using combinations of the words: blood glucose, performance, evaluation, accurate, accuracy, point-of-care, meter, glucometer, and monitor. The reference lists of the selected articles were also reviewed and personal files were hand searched for additional reports. Studies selected for inclusion were published analytical evaluations of marketed, handheld, blood glucose monitoring systems that used a laboratory method as a comparison method. We excluded studies that were not in English, studies of nonhuman blood samples, and studies of continuous monitoring and noninvasive devices. Our PubMed search terms and details were as follows: ("blood glucose"[MeSH Terms] OR blood glucose[Text Word]) AND (performance[Text Word] OR evaluation[Text Word] OR accurate[Text Word] OR accuracy[Text Word] OR point-of-care[Text Word] OR meter[Text Word] OR meters[Text Word] OR glucometer[Text Word] OR glucometers[Text Word] OR monitor[Text Word] OR monitors[Text Word]) AND ("2002/08/01"[PDAT]: "2006/11/01"[PDAT]) AND English(AND "humans"[MeSH Terms].


One reviewer (J.E.) screened the titles from the computer-based search to determine relevant articles for retrieval. If the title did not provide enough information to decide whether or not to include the study, the abstract was read. The full article was retrieved if the abstract did not provide enough information. Studies were eliminated if both reviewers (J.M., J.E.) agreed that the report did not meet inclusion criteria. We obtained printed copies of all articles meeting our inclusion criteria. To evaluate the quality of reporting, we chose the 25-item STARD checklist (13, 14). However, because whole blood glucose monitors are not diagnostic devices, 5 STARD criteria (STARD checklist items 1, 9,12, 21, and 23) were deemed not applicable and were not scored. Because study methodology should be evaluated independently of the quality of the reporting (15), we developed an additional 18-item method checklist based on Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI) C30-A2 (12).

In analyzing published reports, we found that not all STARD or CLSI factors were obvious or clearly reported. In addition, the omission of procedural statements in the report was considered to indicate only that the procedures were not reported, not that they were not performed. Therefore, we assigned a yes (1-point) or no (0-point) value to each recommendation on our checklists depending on whether the authors had (1) included the recommended procedure in the report, (2) included supporting data confirming the use of the recommended procedure, or (3) acknowledged in the report that the recommended procedure had been considered. Differences in interpretation and discrepancies in ratings between the 2 reviewers were rare and were settled via consensus after additional review of the report for supporting evidence.

Each checklist item was given a numerical value of 1 point. Possible points included 20 STARD (reporting) items and 18 CLSI (methodological) items, for a possible maximum of 38 points. Calculations were based on percentages of 38 total points, 20 (STARD), and 18 (CLSI) points. Correlation with P = 0.05 was considered significant.


A total of 1407 titles/ abstracts were retrieved, of which 93 were initially proposed (Fig. 1). On further review, 41 of these studies were found ineligible and were excluded. Exclusions were because of inappropriate (nonhuman fresh whole blood) test samples or the use of an inappropriate reference method (e.g., methods not traceable to materials or methods of higher order). For the 52 selected reports published between August 2002 and November 2006, the scores ranged from a high of 32 points (84%) to a low of 8 points (21%) (Table 1). The average score of the glucose monitor reports was low (median score, 20 of 38 points or 53%). No published report incorporated 100% of the quality factors recommended by STARD or CLSI. The CLSI checklist developed by the authors and the percentage of conforming reports to 18 CLSI recommendations (range 2%-92%) is shown in Table 2, and the STARD checklist and the percentage of reports that conformed to 20 STARD recommendations (range 0%-100%) in Table 3.

No significant trend was found when the report scores were grouped by journal type or assessed by date of publication (P = 0.5). Neither the source journal nor dates of publication were found to be predictive of report conformity to published recommendations.


Our study shows that the average glucose monitor report used only ~50% of the combined CLSI and STARD recommendations and that the overall quality of reports is low. Compliance to these recommendations varied widely (range 21%-84%), and none of the 52 reports conformed to all recommendations. These findings suggest that many investigators disagree with, are unaware of, or are neglectful of published CLSI and STARD recommendations for conducting and reporting glucose monitor evaluation studies.

A report's procedural statements, especially how and when monitor and reference measurements are performed, provide important information regarding the quality and reproducibility of the study. We found that only 42% of the studies reported this information (Table 3) and only 13% reported following appropriate sample timing and handling procedures (Table 2). Control of sampling time is important because after a carbohydrate load blood glucose can change rapidly at a sampling site (63). Postcollection control of sample handling time is also important because glycolysis can cause rapid glycemic change, depending on the hematocrit (64). If either of these circumstances is not controlled, observed differences in the data could be caused by glycemic concentration differences in the comparative samples instead of differences between the 2 methods.

We observed that many investigators made a number of assumptions. Some assumed that the concentration of glucose in capillary and venous blood is equivalent, although equivalence cannot be assumed for individuals in the postprandial state (65). In addition, 29 (56%) of 52 studies reported testing the same sample with both monitor and comparative methods (Table 2). Thus for the other 23 reports, observed differences in the data may be attributable to glycemic concentration differences in the comparative samples. Most investigators also assumed that there is little error associated with their reference method; only 19% checked the bias of their reference with traceable materials (Table 2), although reference glucose methods can have a total error of up to 10% (66). Only 1 of the studies reported that they followed CLSI advice to check that duplicate reference tests were stable and acceptable.

Reports differed considerably in regard to the use of appropriate acceptance criteria for glucose monitor performance. Many reports used expert opinion, medical society opinion, or their own acceptance criteria, whereas relatively few used CLSI acceptance criteria for glucose monitors (12) (Table 2), which are identical to acceptance criteria published by the International Standards Organization (67).

One limitation of our study was our choice to limit our search to English language reports, although we believe that inclusion of studies published in other languages would not alter our conclusions. In addition, glucose monitor evaluation studies exist (not revealed by our search) that are, in our opinion, of relatively high quality. The Scandinavian Evaluation of Laboratory Equipment for Primary Health Care (SKUP) has performed a number of monitor evaluation studies and has issued reports. A review of 2 reports found that SKUP followed 100% of CLSI recommendations and 85% of STARD recommendations (68), (69). These 2 reports emphasized monitor training, performed a thorough reference method evaluation, tested duplicate monitor tests, tested the reference method before and after the monitor testing, properly checked [within 4% or 0.22 mmol/L (4 mg/dL)] the duplicate reference tests to ensure both method and glycemic stability, and emphasized control of elapsed time and glycolysis. Unfortunately, these SKUP reports are not found in the PubMed database.

To our knowledge, a single, published checklist that includes key reporting and methodological factors for glucose monitor evaluations does not exist. We selected the STARD and CLSI checklists because they are published and both contain important elements. Our study shows that although a large number of glucose monitor evaluation studies have been published over a 4-year period, investigators did not address many of the variables that can adversely impact internal and external validity. All glucose-monitoring systems have performance limitations [e.g., hematocrit extremes (70)] that are included in the published manufacturer labeling, yet we found several studies in which the devices were evaluated under off-label conditions. The availability and ease with which clinicians can perform evaluation studies using glucose monitors is relatively unique among in vitro tests. With the growing incidence of diabetes and new technologies for measuring blood glucose on the horizon, it is reasonable to believe that the number of such studies will continue to grow. We believe that a checklist that combines key elements from the STARD and CLSI recommendations, if published and used, would help to improve the quality of monitor evaluation studies and could form the basis for future checklists applicable to continuous monitoring and noninvasive devices. Such a tool has the potential to improve the quality of future studies.

We conclude that none of the glucose monitor evaluation reports in our review conform to all published quality recommendations, and that the overall quality of reports is low. The range of conformance to STARD and CLSI recommendations varied widely, suggesting that many of the researchers did not follow published recommendations for study design and methodology, an omission that may have adversely affected study quality. Future studies evaluating glucose monitoring systems should be carefully designed and should follow published recommendations for methodological and reporting quality.

Grant/funding support: LifeScan, Inc., provided funding for this study.

Financial disclosures: Both authors are employees of LifeScan, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company, and both hold equity interests in Johnson & Johnson.

Acknowledgements: We thank Drs. David Horwitz and David Price for their helpful suggestions and comments. A portion of this work was presented in poster format at the 2006 AACC Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL.

Received November 21, 2006; accepted March 16, 2007. Previously published online at DOI: 10.1373/clinchem.2006.083493


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[3] Nonstandard abbreviations: FDA, Food and Drug Administration; STARD, Standards for Reporting Diagnostic Accuracy; CLSI, Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute; SKUP, Scandinavian Evaluation of Laboratory Equipment for Primary Health Care.


Departments of [1] Global Product Support and [2] Clinical Research, LifeScan, Inc.

* Address correspondence to this author at: LifeScan, Inc., 1000 Gibraltar Dr., M/S 31, Milpitas, CA 95035-6312. Fax 1-408-941-9892; e-mail address
Table 1. Clinical glucose monitor studies and their conformance
to 38 recommended study factors [STARD (20) + CLSI (18) = 38].

Study Total number Percentage, %
 of conforming
 statements or data

Kendall, 2005 (16) 32 84
Garg, 2004 (17) 32 84
Chen, 2003 (18) 30 79
Kristensen, 2004 (19) 28 74
Baum, 2006 (20) 28 74
Kilo, 2005 (21) 27 71
St-Louis, 2002 (22) 27 71
Buhling, 2003 (23) 26 68
Larbig, 2003 (24) 25 66
Michel, 2005 (25) 24 63
Chlup, 2005 (26) 24 63
Kilo, 2005 (27) 24 63
Puntmann, 2003 (28) 23 61
Tieszen, 2003 (29) 23 61
Lippi, 2006 (30) 23 61
Khan, 2006 (31) 23 61
Rivers, 2006 (32) 23 61
Hawkins, 2005 (33) 22 58
Dai, 2004 (34) 22 58
Cohen, 2005 (35) 22 58
Dhatt, 2004 (36) 22 58
Oyibo, 2002 (37) 22 58
Kiattimongkol, 2003 (38) 21 55
Mohan, 2004 (39) 20 53
Demers, 2003 (40) 20 53
Miendje Deyi, 2002 (8) 20 53
Bohme, 2003 (41) 20 53
Savoca, 2006 (42) 20 53
Greenhalgh, 2004 (43) 19 50
Aboezz, 2005 (44) 19 50
Corstjens, 2006 (45) 19 50
Kanji, 2005 (46) 19 50
Rao, 2005 (47) 17 45
Martin, 2005 (7) 17 45
Kavsak, 2004 (48) 17 45
Ho, 2004 (6) 17 45
Solnica, 2003 (49) 17 45
DirecNet, 2005 (50) 17 45
Elusiyan, 2006 (51) 17 45
Wehmeier, 2006 (52) 17 45
DirecNet, 2003 (9) 16 42
Boyd, 2005 (53) 15 39
Ajala, 2003 (54) 15 39
Pavlicek, 2006 (55) 15 39
Solnica, 2005 (56) 14 37
Finkielman, 2005 (5) 14 37
Kulkarni, 2005 (57) 14 37
Medina, 2003 (58) 14 37
Choubtum, 2002 (59) 14 37
Meex, 2006 (60) 14 37
Apperloo, 2005 (61) 10 26
Nobels, 2004 (62) 8 21

Table 2. CLSI quality recommendations for glucose monitor evaluation
studies, and the percentage of 52 studies that were found to contain
conforming statements or data pertaining to these CLSI

 Topic CLSI (NCCLS) C30-A2 factors for Percentage
 glucose monitor evaluation studies of studies,

1 Blood sample Blood sample type (e.g., venous, 90
 capillary) is appropriate for
 monitor method.

2 Blood hematocrit checked to be 33
 within monitor's acceptable range.

3 Blood sample Appropriate anticoagulants, blood 87
 additives, or preservatives
 (if used).

4 collection Catheter is properly flushed of IV 79
 method solution prior to sampling
 (if done).

5 Skin is cleaned and dried prior to 29
 puncture (if done).

6 Blood sample Monitor and reference method are 56
 handling both tested from the same sample.

7 Blood is tested (or centrifuged) 13
 within 5 min of monitor test.
 Centrifuged plasma is tested with
 reference method within 60 min of
 monitor test.

8 Monitor Operators are trained to 58
 method manufacturer's instructions.

9 Monitor is tested in duplicate. 46

10 Reference Laboratory method checked for 44
 method stability and for being within
 its QC control limits.

11 Laboratory method is tested 23
 in duplicate.

12 Laboratory method is verified with 19
 NIST standard reference materials

13 Laboratory duplicates are within 2
 4% or 0.22 mmol/L (4 mg/dL)
 (or else excluded).

14 Statistics Distribution of glucose in blood 92
 and samples spans monitor's measurement
 acceptance range.
15 Specimen sample size is [greater 85
 than or equal to]40 specimen.

16 For glucose 4.2 mmol/L (75 mg/dL), 25
 monitor result is accurate if within
 [+ or -]0.83 mmol/L (15 mg/dL) of
 laboratory average.

17 For glucose [greater than or 37
 equal to]4.2 mmol/L (75 mg/dL),
 monitor result is accurate if within
 [+ or -]20% of laboratory average.

18 Individual monitor results are 10
 compared to the mean of duplicate
 results from laboratory analyzer.

Table 3. STARD recommendations applied to 52 published glucose
monitor evaluation studies, and the percentage of these studies
that were found to contain conforming statements or data regarding
STARD recommendations.

 Section or STARD factors for reporting diagnostic accuracy

1 Keywords Identify the article as a study of diagnostic
 accuracy (recommended MeSH heading
 "sensitivity and specificity").

2 Introduction State the research questions or study aims,
 such as estimating diagnostic accuracy or
 comparing accuracy between tests or across
 participant groups.

3 Participants The study population: the inclusion and
 exclusion criteria, setting, and locations
 where the data were collected.

4 Participant recruitment: Was recruitment
 based on presenting symptoms, results from
 previous tests, or the fact that the
 participants had received the index tests or
 the reference standard?

5 Participant sampling: Was the study population
 a consecutive series of participants defined by
 the selection criteria in item 3 and 4? If not,
 specify how participants were further selected.

6 Data collection: Was data collection planned
 before the index test and reference standard
 were performed (prospective study) or after
 (retrospective study)?

7 Test methods The reference standard and its rationale.

8 Technical specifications of material and
 methods involved including how and when
 measurements were taken, and/or cite references
 for index tests and reference standard.

9 Definition of and rationale for the units,
 cutoffs, and/or categories of the results of
 the index tests and the reference standard.

10 The number, training, and expertise of the
 persons executing and reading the index tests
 and the reference standard.

11 Whether or not the readers of the index tests
 and reference standard were blind (masked) to
 the results of the other test and describe any
 other clinical information available to the

12 Statistical Method for calculating or comparing measures
 methods of diagnostic accuracy, and the statistical
 methods used to quantify uncertainty
 (e.g., 95% CIs).

13 Methods for calculating test reproducibility,
 if done.

14 Participants When the study was done, including beginning
 and ending dates of recruitment.

15 Clinical and demographic characteristics of
 the study population (e.g., age, sex, spectrum
 of presenting symptoms, comorbidity, current
 treatments, recruitment centers).

16 The number of participants satisfying the
 criteria for inclusion who did or did not
 undergo the index tests and/or the reference
 standard; describe why participants failed to
 receive either test (a flow diagram is strongly

17 Test results Time interval from the index tests to the
 reference standard, and any treatment
 administered between.

18 Distribution of severity of disease (define
 criteria) in those with the target condition;
 other diagnoses in participants without the
 target condition.

19 A cross tabulation of the results of the index
 tests (including indeterminate and missing
 results) by the results of the reference
 standard; for continuous results, the
 distribution of test results by the results of
 the reference standard.

20 Any adverse events from performing the index
 tests or the reference standard.

21 Estimates Estimates of diagnostic accuracy and measures
 of statistical uncertainty (e.g., 95% CIs).

22 How indeterminate results, missing responses,
 and outliers of the index tests were handled.

23 Estimates of variability of diagnostic
 accuracy between subgroups of participants,
 readers or centers, if done.

24 Estimates of test reproducibility, if done.

25 Discussion Discuss the clinical applicability of the
 study findings.

 Percentage of
 studies, %

1 N/A

2 100

3 73

4 71

5 50

6 100

7 94

8 42

9 N/A

10 56

11 0

12 N/A

13 75

14 21

15 65

16 88

17 42

18 23

19 81

20 4

21 N/A

22 33

23 N/A

24 73

25 96

NA, Not applicable.
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Title Annotation:General Clinical Chemistry
Author:Mahoney, John; Ellison, John
Publication:Clinical Chemistry
Date:Jun 1, 2007
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