BackgroundMacroprolactin is responsible for pseudohyperprolactinemia and is a common pitfall of the prolactin immunoassay. We aimed to determine the frequency of macroprolactinemia in Chinese hyperprolactinemic patients using monomeric prolactin discriminated by precipitation with polyethylene glycol (PEG).MethodsPost-PEG monomeric prolactin gender-specific reference intervals were established for the Elecsys immunoassay method (Roche Diagnostics) using sera from healthy female (n = 120) and male (n = 120) donors. The reference intervals were validated using 20 macroprolactinemic (as assessed by gel filtration chromatography (GFC)) sera samples, and presence of monomeric prolactin was discriminated by GFC. Patients with high total prolactin were then screened by PEG precipitation to analyze macroprolactin. The demographic and biochemical details of patients with true hyperprolactinemia and macroprolactinemia were compared.ResultsReference intervals for monomeric prolactin in females and males were 3.4–18.5 and 2.7–13.1 ng/mL, respectively. Among 1140 hyperprolactinemic patients, macroprolactinemia was identified in 261 (22.9 %) patients while the other 879 (77.1 %) patients were diagnosed with true hyperprolactinemia. Menstrual disturbances were the most common clinical feature in both groups. Galactorrhea, amenorrhea, and visual disturbances occurred more frequently in true hyperprolactinemic patients (P < 0.05).ConclusionsThe prevalence of macroprolactin in Chinese patients with hyperprolactinemia was described for the first time. Monomeric prolactin concentration, along with a reference interval screening with PEG precipitation, provides a diagnostic approach for hyperprolactinemia with improved accuracy.