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Some cholesterol screening gets failing marks.

The results of cholesterol testing in shopping malls, supermarkets and other public places may give a false sense of security to those who test at acceptable levels, The Wall Street Journal recently reported. Citing two different studies reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the paper noted that the accuracy of the machines being used, as well as the competence of the personnel conducting the screening programs, has been called into question.

The cause for concern is that these screening programs often underestimate true cholesterol levels, thereby failing to alert some persons to their need for lowering their levels. Even in recognized clinical laboratories, the results of cholesterol testing have often been less than consistent, and physicians have long been urged to use laboratories that do provide consistent results and to see that their patients are repeatedly tested by the same laboratory.

Although inadequate training of many personnel involved in public screening programs has been an obvious source of error, the machines used to perform the tests are now the object of scrutiny as well. Five of the portable automatic analyzers used in such programs were tested by a Boston group of specialists against a standard test used in a reliable laboratory. Given an allowable error of 5 percent (that would accurately assess the risk of 95 percent of persons tested), two of the machines (Eastman Kodak's "ektachem DT-60" and Abbott Laboratories "Vision") were well within the limit, whereas three others were not. On the basis of the Boston tests, DuPont's "Analyst" would have calculated the risk of only 74 percent of those tested, Miles Ames' "Seralyzer" would have identified only 75 percent, and a German-made machine, the "Reflotron," 83 percent.
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Title Annotation:shopping malls, supermarkets, and other public places
Publication:Medical Update
Date:May 1, 1990
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