Blood test Reference Ranges medicine
Published: 2 Apr 2023
In the context of your personal information, you and your provider can use reference ranges as a guide to what your results mean and to help make decisions about managing your health.
A few tests do not have ranges, but limits at which decisions are made about whether you are healthy or should be treated. Through many years of research involving large, diverse populations, these limits have become standardized. The specific reference ranges that appear on your laboratory report are determined and provided by the laboratory that performed your test.
Reference ranges help describe what is typical for a particular group of people based on age, sex, and other characteristics. An example is glucose testing for diabetes.
Each laboratory establishes or 'validates' its own reference ranges, thus reflects differences that vary from lab to lab.
You probably also know that if you are a regular runner or are otherwise in good physical condition, your pulse rate could be considerably lower-so a pulse rate of 55 could also be 'normal.' Say you walk up a hill-your heart rate is now 120 beats a minute. The term reference values is increasing in use and is often used interchangeably with reference range. You can take your resting heart rate right now by putting your fingers on your pulse and counting for a minute. How do you know what a 'normal' heart rate is? We know this on the basis of taking the pulse rate of millions of people over time. Therefore, today 'reference range' or 'reference values' are considered the more appropriate terms, for reasons explained on the next page. The term 'normal range' is not used very much today because it is considered to be misleading. If a patient's results are outside the range for that test, it does not automatically mean that the result is abnormal. For simplicity, we use the term reference range in this article. To understand what is normal for you, your doctor must know what is normal for most other people of your age and what you were doing at the time-or just before-the test or observation was conducted. Most people know that the 'average' heart rate is about 70 beats per minute. Without the proper context, any observation or test result is meaningless. The interpretation of any clinical laboratory test must consider this important concept when comparing the patient results to the test 'reference range'.Take one of the simplest medical indicators of all-your heart rate. Tests results-all medical data-can only be understood once all the pieces are together. Your heart rate, like any medical observation, must be considered in context. That would be high for a resting heart rate but 'normal' for the rate during this kind of activity.