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Open Access Research article

Comparability of HbA1c and lipids measured with dried blood spot versus venous samples: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Eshan T Affan12*, Devarsetty Praveen12, Clara K Chow123 and Bruce C Neal12

Author Affiliations

1 The George Institute for Global Health, Missenden Rd, PO Box M201, NSW 2050 Sydney, Australia

2 The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

3 Westmead Hospital, Sydney, Australia

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BMC Clinical Pathology 2014, 14:21  doi:10.1186/1472-6890-14-21

Published: 12 May 2014



Levels of haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) and blood lipids are important determinants of risk in patients with diabetes. Standard analysis methods based upon venous blood samples can be logistically challenging in resource-poor settings where much of the diabetes epidemic is occurring. Dried blood spots (DBS) provide a simple alternative method for sample collection but the comparability of data from analyses based on DBS is not well established.


We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to define the association of findings for HbA1c and blood lipids for analyses based upon standard methods compared to DBS. The Cochrane, Embase and Medline databases were searched for relevant reports and summary regression lines were estimated.


705 abstracts were found by the initial electronic search with 6 further reports identified by manual review of the full papers. 16 studies provided data for one or more outcomes of interest. There was a close agreement between the results for HbA1c assays based on venous and DBS samples (DBS = 0.9858venous + 0.3809), except for assays based upon affinity chromatography. Significant adjustment was required for assays of total cholesterol (DBS = 0.6807venous + 1.151) but results for triglycerides (DBS = 0.9557venous + 0.1427) were directly comparable.


For HbA1c and selected blood lipids, assays based on DBS samples are clearly associated with assays based on standard venous samples. There are, however, significant uncertainties about the nature of these associations and there is a need for standardisation of the sample collection, transportation, storage and analysis methods before the technique can be considered mainstream. This should be a research priority because better elucidation of metabolic risks in resource poor settings, where venous sampling is infeasible, will be key to addressing the global epidemic of cardiovascular diseases.

Dried blood spot; HbA1c; Lipids; Meta-analysis; Total cholesterol; Triglycerides