A novel approach to using glucometers to measure blood glucose levels, developed by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet; PA, USA), has already caused a change in practice at one veterinary hospital and could have potential for human users of the device.
Glucometers are an important tool for people living with diabetes. These devices provide information about blood glucose levels, and are used by diabetes sufferers to self-monitor and as an important diagnostic tool in veterinary medicine. Yet while glucometers provide rapid results, they are not as accurate as other measuring devices for blood glucose.
The research team has developed a way of using blood plasma or serum rather than whole blood to obtain a more accurate measurement from glucometers. Senior author of the work and professor of internal medicine at Penn Vet, Rebecka Hess, explained: “It’s a simple study, but it has changed the way we do things.” The team’s findings have already resulted in a change of practice at Penn Vet’s Ryan Hospital (PA, USA).
“It’s widely known that glucometer readings come with a degree of inaccuracy, and until now we’ve just lived with it,” Hess continued. The team’s goal was to find a way to maintain the practical convenience of the glucometer, while improving its accuracy. In order to do so, they assessed cats and dogs treated at Ryan Hospital, enrolling animals to the study scheduled for blood tests for other purposes.
Glucometers are typically used to measure glucose levels in whole blood, but the researchers tested instead their accuracy on blood plasma and blood serum. They then analyzed each sample both in the glucometer and in a biochemical analyzer. The biochemical analyzer is considered the gold standard for blood glucose measurement, but takes longer to provide a reading, needs a larger blood sample, and is more expensive to run.
Kenneth Drobatz, director of emergency services and chief of critical care at Penn Vet and collaborator on the study, explained their findings: “The plasma and serum results were very tightly clumped with the results from the gold standard machine. That gives us a lot of confidence in this method.” Drobatz also noted that the glucometer is a preferable option for blood glucose analysis in emergency veterinary medicine, when results are needed quickly or when only small amounts of blood can be obtained, such as in juvenile animals.
Hess described their findings’ potential importance for human diabetics: “With technology becoming cheaper and smaller all of the time, I can easily envision people purchasing centrifuges to use at home for this purpose.”