The number of unexpected HbA1c variants may be a greater problem in routine practice than is generally realized


Correspondence to: Dr T. Reynolds, Clinical Chemistry Department, Queen's Hospital, Belvedere Road, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire DE13 0RB, UK. E-mail:


Background  The majority of variant and abnormal haemoglobins are clinically silent but may not be biochemically silent when it comes to HbA1c estimation.

Case report  We describe several cases in which there were problems in the determination of HbA1c for monitoring diabetes in patients that would not normally be classified as being at risk. Four of these cases were sufficiently unusual to warrant individual publication but all came from a very restricted geographical area with a population of only approximately 500 000. The significance of this is not that variant haemoglobins affect HbA1c analysis but that the occurrence of unexpected/unusual variant haemoglobins may be more frequent than most clinicians would expect, considering that only a small proportion of the basal population are diabetic and have their HbA1c monitored. Differences will exist between different areas due to differences in both the prevalence of variants and the analytical methods employed.

Conclusions  Consequently, we propose greater interaction between diabetologists and the laboratory in an attempt to identify these clinically but not biochemically silent variants to achieve a true estimation of the glycaemic control in affected patients.