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Improving Children's Health Through Better Pediatric Reference Intervals

Reference intervals are the range of normal test values appropriate for a healthy individual and are vital for the proper interpretation of medical test results and accurate diagnoses. Clinicians rely on them to inform their treatment decisions and more precise reference intervals mean better patient outcomes.

Laboratories establish reference intervals using patient samples collected for testing. Different intervals are developed for different ages, genders, ethnicities, and on the basis of other factors, which allows healthcare providers to determine what normal test results should be for a variety of demographics. For intervals to be accurate, enough samples need to be collected to be representative of these various demographics. 

The wide availability of samples from adults makes it easy for laboratories to establish quality reference intervals for adult groups. However, the establishment of quality reference intervals for pediatric groups has been a major challenge. Many samples that laboratories have for the youngest demographics are taken from children who are being tested for a medical condition or illness. This means that while general reference ranges can be established using these samples, they are not representative of healthy populations.

Initiatives such as the Children’s Health Improvement through Laboratory Diagnostics (CHILDx) program initiated by ARUP Laboratories and the University of Utah Department of Pathology, as well as the Canadian Laboratory Initiative in Pediatric Reference Intervals (CALIPER) have made great strides improving children’s reference intervals. However, the large scope of the problem means much more work needs to be done.

AACC’s Policy and External Affairs Core Committee met with lawmakers in May 2018 to advocate for congressional action to address this important issue.

AACC Position Statement on Pediatric Reference Intervals

In this position statement, AACC calls on Congress to fund efforts to obtain specimens from healthy children, which can be used to develop precise reference intervals.

Additional Resources

Policy Documents

Congressional Briefings

From Other Organizations