JOURNAL ARTICLE

Discriminative value of inflammatory biomarkers for suspected sepsis

Ephraim L Tsalik, L Brett Jaggers, Seth W Glickman, Raymond J Langley, Jennifer C van Velkinburgh, Lawrence P Park, Vance G Fowler, Charles B Cairns, Stephen F Kingsmore, Christopher W Woods
Journal of Emergency Medicine 2012, 43 (1): 97-106
22056545

BACKGROUND: Circulating biomarkers can facilitate sepsis diagnosis, enabling early management and improved outcomes. Procalcitonin (PCT) has been suggested to have superior diagnostic utility compared to other biomarkers.

STUDY OBJECTIVES: To define the discriminative value of PCT, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and C-reactive protein (CRP) for suspected sepsis.

METHODS: PCT, CRP, and IL-6 were correlated with infection likelihood, sepsis severity, and septicemia. Multivariable models were constructed for length-of-stay and discharge to a higher level of care.

RESULTS: Of 336 enrolled subjects, 60% had definite infection, 13% possible infection, and 27% no infection. Of those with infection, 202 presented with sepsis, 28 with severe sepsis, and 17 with septic shock. Overall, 21% of subjects were septicemic. PCT, IL6, and CRP levels were higher in septicemia (median PCT 2.3 vs. 0.2 ng/mL; IL-6 178 vs. 72 pg/mL; CRP 106 vs. 62 mg/dL; p < 0.001). Biomarker concentrations increased with likelihood of infection and sepsis severity. Using receiver operating characteristic analysis, PCT best predicted septicemia (0.78 vs. IL-6 0.70 and CRP 0.67), but CRP better identified clinical infection (0.75 vs. PCT 0.71 and IL-6 0.69). A PCT cutoff of 0.5 ng/mL had 72.6% sensitivity and 69.5% specificity for bacteremia, as well as 40.7% sensitivity and 87.2% specificity for diagnosing infection. A combined clinical-biomarker model revealed that CRP was marginally associated with length of stay (p = 0.015), but no biomarker independently predicted discharge to a higher level of care.

CONCLUSIONS: In adult emergency department patients with suspected sepsis, PCT, IL-6, and CRP highly correlate with several infection parameters, but are inadequately discriminating to be used independently as diagnostic tools.

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