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The effect of a symptom related “gating policy” on ANCA requests in routine clinical practice

Abstract

Background: Most positive antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA) results are associated with non-vasculitic conditions, and guidelines have been proposed for the judicious use of this test. The outcome of applying similar guidelines in a routine laboratory is reported.

Methods: All immunology requests (6500) over six months were selected, and those requesting ANCA were studied for the appropriateness of the clinical data supporting the request, the presence of ANCA in those samples tested, and the final diagnosis. Antibodies were detected by indirect immunofluorescence.

Results: ANCA testing was requested in 287 samples. Application of a “gating policy”, which refuses analysis on requests that are not supported by clinical data suggestive of systemic vasculitis, made clinicians more selective about the patients for whom they requested ANCA testing. The percentage of “appropriate” screens for systemic vasculitis was relatively high (212 of 287 requests: 72.5%). Only one of the remainder, for whom ANCA testing was initially refused, developed an ANCA related systemic vasculitis in the two years after the study, but the delay in reporting her positive ANCA was only two days. Most of the samples tested were negative (155 of 212), but most (42 of 57) of the patients with positive ANCA results were found to have a systemic vasculitis.

Conclusions: A gating policy to select requests supported by clinical data suggestive of systemic vasculitis makes ANCA testing more clinically relevant and cost effective. Studies where guidelines can be proposed and their effects measured are important in the light of clinical governance and evidence based medicine.

  • antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies
  • gating
  • ANA, antinuclear antibodies
  • ANCA, antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies
  • FITC, fluorescein isothiocyanate
  • MPO, myeloperoxidase
  • PR3, proteinase 3
  • SLE, systemic lupus erythematosus

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