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Effects of environmental conditions on point-of-care cardiac biomarker test performance during a simulated rescue: Implications for emergency and disaster response

Richard F. Louie, PhD, FACB, William J. Ferguson, BS, Corbin M. Curtis, BS, John H. Vy, BS, Chloe S. Tang, BS, Gerald J. Kost, MD, PhD, MS, FACB


Objective: To characterize the effects of environmental stress on point-of-care (POC) cardiac biomarker testing during a simulated rescue.
Design: Multiplex test cassettes for cardiac troponin I (cTnI), brain natriuretic peptide (BNP), CKMB, myoglobin, and D-dimer were exposed to environmental stresses simulating a 24-hour rescue from Hawaii to the Marshall Islands and back. We used Tenney environmental chambers (T2RC and BTRC) to simulate flight conditions (20°C, 10 percent relative humidity) and ground conditions (22.3-33.9°C, 73-77 percent). We obtained paired measurements using stressed versus control (room temperature) cassettes at seven time points (T1-7 with T1,2,6,7 during flight and T3-5 on ground). We analyzed paired differences (stressed minus control) with Wilcoxon signed rank test. We assessed the impact on decision-making at clinical thresholds.
Results: cTnI results from stressed test cassettes (n = 10) at T4 (p < 0.05), T5 (p < 0.01), and T7 (p < 0.05) differed significantly from control, when testing samples with median cTnI concentration of 90 ng/L. During the ground rescue, 36.7 percent (11/30) of cTnI measurements from stressed cassettes generated significantly lowered results. At T5, 20 percent (2/10) of cTnI results were highly discrepant—stressed cassettes reported normal results, when control results were >100 ng/L. With sample median concentration of 108 pg/mL, BNP results from stressed test cassettes differed significantly from controls (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: Despite modest, short-term temperature elevation, environmental stresses led to erroneous results. False negative cTnI and BNP results potentially could miss acute myocardial infarction and congestive heart failure, confounded treatment, and increased mortality and morbidity. Therefore, rescuers should protect POC reagents from temperature extremes.


austere environments, disaster preparedness, medical errors, Pacific Islands, and quality assurance

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