Measurement of total serum testosterone levels using commercially available kits: High degree of between-kit variability

Larry R. Boots, Sally Potter, H. Downing Potter, Ricardo Azziz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

113 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: The measurement of total serum testosterone has an established clinical role in the management of male hypogonadism and female androgen excess disorders. We studied the between-kit variability and precision of six different commercially available testosterone assays and compared them with an established in-house method. Design: Laboratory observational prospective study. Setting: Tertiary university medical center clinical laboratory. Patient(s): Three groups of samples each of men (n = 36) and women (n = 15) who had high, normal, or low levels of sex hormone- binding globulin (SHBG), respectively, were studied. Intervention(s): Individual and pooled (male and female) serum samples were analyzed for total testosterone concentration using six different commercially available assays and one in-house method. Main Outcome Measure(s): The between-kit variability and the effect of the mean (± SD) SHBG level were determined, the results obtained with the use of the kits and the in-house method were compared, and the intraassay variability (i.e., precision) was evaluated. Result(s): Male samples demonstrated a 26.3%-40.8% variance in the results obtained with different kits, which was greatest for samples with the lowest SHBG levels. For female samples, between-kit variability ranged from 57%-115% (average, 77%). The percent deviation of the results obtained with the use of commercial methods from those obtained with the use of our in-house assay was greater for men (mean variance, 194%) than for women (mean variance, 67%). The female pool intraassay coefficient of variation was 3.8% with the use of the in-house method and ranged from 8.9%-21.2% with the use of' the commercial kits. The male pool intraassay coefficient of variation was 3.1% with the use of the in-house method and ranged from 3.3%-5.5% with the use of the commercial kits. Conclusion(s): Most commercially available kits for measuring the total serum testosterone level demonstrated significant between-kit variability, which was greatest for female samples. Further, samples with the lowest SHBG levels had the highest between-kit variances. These data strongly suggest that the measurement of total serum testosterone using commercial kits may have limited utility, particularly for the detection of hyperandrogenemia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)286-292
Number of pages7
JournalFertility and sterility
Volume69
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 26 1998

Keywords

  • Androgens
  • Laboratory
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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