HbA1c predicts the likelihood of having impaired glucose tolerance in high-risk patients with normal fasting plasma glucose

Tarekegn Geberhiwot, Angela Haddon, Mourad Labib
Annals of Clinical Biochemistry 2005, 42: 193-5

BACKGROUND: Although the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is the 'gold standard' for diagnosing prediabetes/diabetes, it is inconvenient for the patient and time consuming. The only alternative simple screening test is fasting plasma glucose (FPG). FPG concentrations of > 6.0 mmol/L represent prediabetes/diabetes. FPG concentrations of < or = 6.0 mmol/L may be considered 'normal', although some such patients will demonstrate abnormal glucose tolerance when subjected to an OGTT. We have evaluated the use of glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) as a screening test for diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) in patients who have risk factors for diabetes but FPG < or = 6.0 mmol/L.

METHODS AND RESULTS: A total of 580 patients with at least two risk factors for diabetes underwent an OGTT and HbA1c measurement. In all, 225 patients had a FPG < or = 6.0 mmol/L and met the inclusion criteria. Of these, 23.1% (n=52) had an abnormal OGTT result (45 had IGT and 7 had diabetes). Subjects with abnormal glucose tolerance had a higher percentage of HbA1c than subjects with normal glucose tolerance (P<0.001). An HbA1c of 5.6% gave an optimal sensitivity of 72% and specificity of 77% to predict a 2 h plasma glucose > or = 7.8 mmol/L.

CONCLUSION: The use of FPG concentration followed by selective measurement of HbA1c in patients who are at high risk of developing diabetes may represent a reasonable approach to identifying patients requiring an OGTT.

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