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False-Positive Serum Cocaine Screening Results in Patients Undergoing Evaluation for Renal Transplant

Christine L H Snozek, Rebecca L Corey, Matthew R Buras, Kamisha L Johnson-Davis
Journal of Analytical Toxicology 2019 March 31
Drug screening during pre-transplant evaluations can have major implications for patient care, particularly because drug abuse has been associated with poor transplant outcomes. Although urine drug screening is usually preferred, serum testing is available for situations such as anuria due to end stage renal disease. However, there are few studies evaluating serum drug screening in specific populations such as patients undergoing kidney transplant evaluation. All serum drug screens ordered between January 2015 and November 2017 on patients being evaluated for renal transplant were compared against a large population of serum drug screens ordered from other institutions. Cocaine screening and confirmation results were evaluated to determine false positives. Cocaine screens were positive in 23 of 537 (4.3%) pre-transplant samples, and 211 of 5,115 (4.1%) comparison samples. Confirmation testing demonstrated that 14 (60.9%) pre-transplant samples were false positives, which was significantly (P < 0.01) higher than the rate of false positives in the comparison group (47/211, 22.3%). No common medication or other cross-reacting substance could be identified in the pre-transplant cohort to explain the false-positive results. Although serum cocaine screening had a low overall false-positive rate, the proportion of false positives was significantly higher in pre-transplant patients. Given the poor transplant outcomes associated with drug abuse, failure to properly interpret screening results as being false positives could negatively affect patient care. All members of the transplant team should recognize the importance of confirmation testing in this setting, to avoid unintended consequences due to false-positive screening results.


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