In Pursuit of the Abnormal Serum Alkaline Phosphatase

A Clinical Dilemma

Published in: Journal of General Internal Medicine, v. 1, no. 1, Jan./Feb 1986, p. 38-43

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 1986

by Lisa V. Rubenstein, Nancy C. Ward, Sheldon Greenfield

Read More

Access further information on this document at www.springerlink.com

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

The serum alkaline phosphatase (ALP) is often included among the tests used for case-finding among ambulatory patients. To determine the positive predictive value of the ALP, test results for all adults screened by a health maintenance organization between March and December 1969 were obtained by computer. The authors reviewed the charts of all 661 patients with abnormal tests whose primary source of medical care was at this facility. Complete two-year follow-up data were available for 91% of these patients. There were 56 patients (9%) with a diagnosis that could have explained an abnormal ALP. Of those cases in which ALP would have been clinically useful all but one could have been diagnosed by a simple, noninvasive work-up, and in that one case, no management change would have occurred. The authors conclude that in the absence of a small number of specific indications, extensive testing need not be performed to evaluate an isolated abnormal ALP obtained from a screening examination.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.