Quality control of smear microscopy for acid-fast bacilli: the case for blinded re-reading
Abstract:SETTING: Quality control of sputum smear microscopy, which is essential for ensuring correct tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis, is often performed through the unblinded re-reading of all positive slides and a sample of negative slides.
OBJECTIVE: To assess misclassification error introduced by knowledge of prior results.
METHODS: The Southern Vietnam Regional TB Laboratory prepared three gold-standard sets of 750 slides: an unblinded set, an unblinded set in which 13% of negative slides were replaced by weakly positive slides purposefully mislabelled as negative, and a blinded set. Six provincial technicians who normally perform district quality control each reread 125 slides from each set.
RESULTS: In the three sets only one negative slide was misread as positive. In the unblinded set (referent), 2.9% (9/311) positive slides were misread as negative, compared with 18.7% (57/305) in the blinded set (prevalence ratio [PR] = 6.5; 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.3–12.8; P < 0.001), and 11.3% (33/293) in the unblinded set with mislabelled slides (PR = 3.9; 95%CI 1.9–8.0; P < 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: False-negative error was more common than false-positive error. Knowledge of prior reading influences re-reading. Blinded re-reading of systematically selected slides would appear preferable, although this method requires high levels of proficiency among quality control technicians.
Document Type: Regular Paper
Affiliations: 1: Pham Ngoc Thach TB and Lung Disease Centre, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 2: Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA 3: National Institute of Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases, Hanoi, Vietnam
Publication date: 1999-01-01
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