Failure of mean red cell volume to serve as a biologic marker for alcoholism in narcotic dependence. A randomized control trial.
Mean red cell volume, mean red cell hemoglobin, and mean red cell hemoglobin concentration were measured in a prospective, longitudinal, single-bind study of alcoholism and its treatment in 625 patients receiving methadone. Mean red cell volume and mean red cell hemoglobin were significantly elevated in alcoholic as compared with nonalcoholic patients (p less than 0.001), with a sensitivity of 40 and 51 percent, respectively. The ability of an elevated mean red cell volume and mean red cell hemoglobin to exclude active alcoholism (specificity) was 86 and 76 percent, respectively. Development of excessive consumption of alcohol during the course of the study was not associated with significant elevations over baseline values of either mean red cell volume or mean red cell hemoglobin. Similarly, the mean red cell volume and mean red cell hemoglobin in the small number of patients whose consumption of alcohol markedly decreased did not significantly change from baseline values. These findings suggest that although the specificity of mean red cell volume may be helpful in eliminating those persons who are not actively alcoholic, its sensitivity does not permit its use as a biologic marker for alcoholism. The inclusion of an elevated mean red cell volume as a major criterion for the diagnosis of alcoholism should be reconsidered.
Stimmel, B; Korts, D; Jackson, G; Gilbert, HS
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