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Determination of reference ranges for elements in human scalp hair

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Abstract

Expected values, reference ranges, or reference limits are necessary to enable clinicians to apply analytical chemical data in the delivery of health care. Determination of references ranges is not straightforward in terms of either selecting a reference population or performing statistical analysis. In light of logistical, scientific, and economic obstacles, it is understandable that clinical laboratories often combine approaches in developing health associated reference values. A laboratory may choose to:

  1. 1.

    Validate either reference ranges of other laboratories or published data from clinical research or both, through comparison of patients test data.

  2. 2.

    Base the laboratory’s reference values on statistical analysis of results from specimens assayed by the clinical reference laboratory itself.

  3. 3.

    Adopt standards or recommendations of regulatory agencies and governmental bodies.

  4. 4.

    Initiate population studies to validate transferred reference ranges or to determine them anew.

Effects of external contamination and anecdotal information from clinicians may be considered.

The clinical utility of hair analysis is well accepted for some elements. For others, it remains in the realm of clinical investigation. This article elucidates an approach for establishment of reference ranges for elements in human scalp hair. Observed levels of analytes from hair specimens from both our laboratory’s total patient population and from a physician-defined healthy American population have been evaluated. Examination of levels of elements often associated with toxicity serves to exemplify the process of determining reference ranges in hair. In addition the approach serves as a model for setting reference ranges for analytes in a variety of matrices.

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Druyan, M.E., Bass, D., Puchyr, R. et al. Determination of reference ranges for elements in human scalp hair. Biol Trace Elem Res 62, 183–197 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02783970

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