Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Hemoglobin estimation by the HemoCue® portable hemoglobin photometer in a resource poor setting

Bernard Nkrumah1*, Samuel Blay Nguah2, Nimako Sarpong1, Denise Dekker4, Ali Idriss3, Juergen May4 and Yaw Adu-Sarkodie5

Author affiliations

1 Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in tropical Medicine, Kumasi, Ghana

2 Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Kumasi, Ghana

3 Malaria Research Centre, Agogo, Ghana

4 Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Hamburg, Germany

5 Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana

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Citation and License

BMC Clinical Pathology 2011, 11:5  doi:10.1186/1472-6890-11-5

Published: 21 April 2011



In resource poor settings where automated hematology analyzers are not available, the Cyanmethemoglobin method is often used. This method though cheaper, takes more time. In blood donations, the semi-quantitative gravimetric copper sulfate method which is very easy and inexpensive may be used but does not provide an acceptable degree of accuracy. The HemoCue® hemoglobin photometer has been used for these purposes. This study was conducted to generate data to support or refute its use as a point-of-care device for hemoglobin estimation in mobile blood donations and critical care areas in health facilities.


EDTA blood was collected from study participants drawn from five groups: pre-school children, school children, pregnant women, non-pregnant women and men. Blood collected was immediately processed to estimate the hemoglobin concentration using three different methods (HemoCue®, Sysmex KX21N and Cyanmethemoglobin). Agreement between the test methods was assessed by the method of Bland and Altman. The Intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) was used to determine the within subject variability of measured hemoglobin.


Of 398 subjects, 42% were males with the overall mean age being 19.4 years. The overall mean hemoglobin as estimated by each method was 10.4 g/dl for HemoCue, 10.3 g/dl for Sysmex KX21N and 10.3 g/dl for Cyanmethemoglobin. Pairwise analysis revealed that the hemoglobin determined by the HemoCue method was higher than that measured by the KX21N and Cyanmethemoglobin. Comparing the hemoglobin determined by the HemoCue to Cyanmethemoglobin, the concordance correlation coefficient was 0.995 (95% CI: 0.994-0.996, p < 0.001). The Bland and Altman's limit of agreement was -0.389 - 0.644 g/dl with the mean difference being 0.127 (95% CI: 0.102-0.153) and a non-significant difference in variability between the two measurements (p = 0.843). After adjusting to assess the effect of other possible confounders such as sex, age and category of person, there was no significant difference in the hemoglobin determined by the HemoCue compared to Cyanmethemoglobin (coef = -0.127, 95% CI: -0.379 - 0.634).


Hemoglobin determined by the HemoCue method is comparable to that determined by the other methods. The HemoCue photometer is therefore recommended for use as on-the-spot device for determining hemoglobin in resource poor setting.