A bizarre and wasteful practice – Is your doctor following this crowd?

It seems there are a group of doctors using the B12 test to in order to remove B12 injections from patients who require life long treatment.

I have blogged about this practice before but due to the extra impact it’s having I thought it time to revisit.

Some doctors (far too many) are systematically re testing serum B12 levels in those already diagnosed believing that a ‘within range’ result means the patient can function without their essential treatment.

These patients cannot absorb B12 from food, hence their original diagnoses, so how exactly are they meant to access B12 without their injections?


Test shortage
Another impact of patients being retested unnecessarily is a resulting lack of the reagent required to carry out the test. This has happened in the past few months and obviously delays diagnosis and treatment for new patients.


Wasteful and harmful
This practice is nearly always wasteful but it’s harmful to the patient too if the doctor fails to understand that testing once the patient is on treatment is useless and that the result has no relationship to the level of B12 in their cells.

What the experts say
The testing lab often add this note to the bottom of a high result; “Do not measure B12 levels in patients who are on parenteral treatment”

and to quote NICE Guidance;

  • Measuring cobalamin levels is unhelpful as levels increase with treatment regardless of how effective it is, and retesting is not usually required.
  • What monitoring is required after treatment for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency has started?

    • Perform a full blood count and reticulocyte count: 

    • Within 7–10 days of starting treatment.

    • A rise in the haemoglobin level and an increase in the reticulocyte count to above the     normal range indicates that treatment is having a positive effect.

    • If there is no improvement, check serum folate level (if this has not been done already).

    • After 8 weeks of treatment, and also measure iron and folate levels.

    • The mean cell volume (MCV) should have normalised.

    • On completion of folic acid treatment to confirm a response.

    • Measuring cobalamin levels is unhelpful as levels increase with treatment regardless of how effective it is, and retesting is not usually required.

    • However, cobalamin can be measured 1–2 months after starting treatment if there is no response.

    • Neurological recovery may take some time — improvement begins within one week and complete resolution usually occurs between six weeks and three months.

    • Ongoing monitoring is unnecessary unless a lack of compliance with treatment is suspected, anaemia recurs, or neurological symptoms do not improve or progress.

Remember if you are neurologically affected you need to be on every other day injections for as long as it takes for those symptoms to stop improving.
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Best wishes

Tracey

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