Background: The growing interest in measuring blood free testosterone (FT) is constrained by the unsuitability of the laborious reference methods for wider adoption in routine diagnostic laboratories. Various alternative derived testosterone measures have been proposed to estimate FT from either additional assay steps or calculations using total testosterone (TT) and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) measured in the same sample. However, none have been critically validated in large numbers of blood samples.
Methods: We analyzed a large dataset comprising over 4000 consecutive blood samples in which FT as well as TT and SHBG were measured. Dividing the dataset into samples with blood TT above and below 5 nM, using a bootstrap regression modeling approach guided by Akaike Information Criterion for model selection to balance parsimony against reduction of residual error, empirical equations were developed for FT in terms of TT and SHBG.
Results: Comparison between the empirical FT equations with the laboratory FT measurements as well as three widely used calculated FT methods showed the empirical FT formulae had superior fidelity with laboratory measurements while previous FT formulae overestimated and deviated systematically from the laboratory FT values.
Conclusion: We conclude that these simple, assumption-free empirical FT equations can estimate accurately blood FT from TT and SHBG measured in the same samples with the present assay methods and have suitable properties for wider application to evaluate the clinical utility of blood FT measurements.