Iterative outlier removal: A method for identifying outliers in laboratory recalibration studies

Christina M. Parrinello, Morgan E. Grams, Yingying Sang, David Couper, Lisa M. Wruck, Danni Li, John H. Eckfeldt, Elizabeth Selvin, Josef Coresh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Extreme values that arise for any reason, including those through nonlaboratory measurement procedure-related processes (inadequate mixing, evaporation, mislabeling), lead to outliers and inflate errors in recalibration studies. We present an approach termed iterative outlier removal (IOR) for identifying such outliers. METHODS: We previously identified substantial laboratory drift in uric acid measurements in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study over time. Serum uric acid was originally measured in 1990-1992 on a CoulterDACOSinstrument using an uricase-based measurement procedure. To recalibrate previous measured concentrations to a newer enzymatic colorimetric measurement procedure, uric acid was remeasured in 200 participants from stored plasma in 2011-2013 on a Beckman Olympus 480 autoanalyzer. To conduct IOR, we excluded data points >3 SDs from the mean difference. We continued this process using the resulting data until no outliers remained. RESULTS: IOR detected more outliers and yielded greater precision in simulation. The original mean difference (SD) in uric acid was 1.25 (0.62) mg/dL. After 4 iterations, 9 outliers were excluded, and the mean difference (SD) was 1.23 (0.45) mg/dL. Conducting only one round of outlier removal (standard approach) would have excluded 4 outliers [mean difference (SD) = 1.22 (0.51) mg/dL]. Applying the recalibration (derived from Deming regression) from each approach to the original measurements, the prevalence of hyperuricemia (>7 mg/dL) was 28.5% before IOR and 8.5% after IOR. CONCLUSIONS: IOR is a useful method for removal of extreme outliers irrelevant to recalibrating laboratory measurements, and identifies more extraneous outliers than the standard approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)966-972
Number of pages7
JournalClinical chemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2016

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Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Association for Clinical Chemistry.


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