A systematic review and diagnostic test accuracy meta-analysis of the validity of anion gap as a screening tool for hyperlactatemia

Stella Andrea Glasmacher, William Stones

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This systematic review and meta-analysis seeks to determine the validity of the anion gap to screen for hyperlactatemia in critically ill patients. We have previously shown that the anion gap does not predict 31-day and in-hospital mortality in critically ill patients. The present review aims to add confirmatory evidence to identify whether the anion gap is a suitable tool for risk stratification in low-resource countries.

Nine studies reporting on 4504 samples from 2111 patients were included. The anion gap failed to detect hyperlactatemia defined as lactate above 2.5 mmol/l but showed good discriminatory ability for the detection of severe hyperlactatemia defined as lactate over 4 mmol/l. At the 2.5 mmol/l threshold, the anion gap had high specificity but low sensitivity for the detection of hyperlactatemia. A meta-analysis of correlation coefficients yielded high statistical heterogeneity. Therefore, in keeping with our previous findings, the use of the anion gap for risk stratification as an alternative to lactate cannot be recommended. However, the strength of the evidence we have synthesised is adversely affected by the small number of studies included, inconsistency of effect measures and positivity thresholds reported, and selection bias within individual studies. PROSPERO Registration Number: CRD42015016470 (registered on the 4th February 2015).
Original languageEnglish
Article number556
Number of pages5
JournalBMC Research Notes
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2017



  • anion gap
  • lactate
  • hyperlactatemia
  • risk stratifcation
  • systematic review
  • meta-analysis

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