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Procalcitonin as a diagnostic marker in differentiating parapneumonic effusion from tuberculous pleurisy or malignant effusion.

OBJECTIVES: Differential diagnosis of exudative pleural effusions can be difficult, despite the use of several biomarkers. Serum procalcitonin (s-PCT) is a well-known biomarker for systemic bacterial infections. However, the usefulness of pleural fluid procalcitonin (pf-PCT) in clinical practice has not been established. This study evaluated the usefulness of PCT measurements in differentiating parapneumonic effusion (PPE) from tuberculous (TB) pleurisy or malignant effusion.

DESIGN AND METHODS: Ninety eight adult patients diagnosed with exudative pleural effusion were enrolled and allocated into the PPE group (n=32), TB pleurisy group (n=40), or malignant effusion group (n=26). Both s-PCT and pf-PCT concentrations were measured at admission using an immunoluminometric assay.

RESULTS: Both s-PCT and pf-PCT were significantly increased in the PPE group compared with the TB pleurisy or malignant effusion groups (p<0.001). The optimal cut-off value for s-PCT in the diagnosis of PPE was 0.18 ng/mL (sensitivity 83.3%, specificity 81.0%). The pf-PCT cut-off value was 0.16 ng/mL (sensitivity 81.5%, specificity 72.1%). Serum PCT exhibited better diagnostic accuracy than pf-PCT, with areas under the receiver operating characteristic curves of 0.842 for s-PCT and 0.784 for pf-PCT (p=0.015). In addition, s-PCT and pf-PCT showed better diagnostic accuracy than serum C-reactive protein (p=0.005 and p=0.023, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: Measurement of s-PCT and pf-PCT is useful in differentiating PPE from TB pleurisy and malignant effusion. Both s-PCT and pf-PCT may be useful biomarkers in the differential diagnosis of exudative pleural effusions.

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