Changes in circulating procalcitonin versus C-reactive protein in predicting evolution of infectious disease in febrile, critically ill patients

Sandra H Hoeboer, A B Johan Groeneveld
PloS One 2013, 8 (6): e65564

OBJECTIVE: Although absolute values for C-reactive protein (CRP) and procalcitonin (PCT) are well known to predict sepsis in the critically ill, it remains unclear how changes in CRP and PCT compare in predicting evolution of: infectious disease, invasiveness and severity (e.g. development of septic shock, organ failure and non-survival) in response to treatment. The current study attempts to clarify these aspects.

METHODS: In 72 critically ill patients with new onset fever, CRP and PCT were measured on Day 0, 1, 2 and 7 after inclusion, and clinical courses were documented over a week with follow up to Day 28. Infection was microbiologically defined, while septic shock was defined as infection plus shock. The sequential organ failure assessment (SOFA) score was assessed.

RESULTS: From peak at Day 0-2 to Day 7, CRP decreased when (bloodstream) infection and septic shock (Day 0-2) resolved and increased when complications such as a new (bloodstream) infection or septic shock (Day 3-7) supervened. PCT decreased when septic shock resolved and increased when a new bloodstream infection or septic shock supervened. Increased or unchanged SOFA scores were best predicted by PCT increases and Day 7 PCT, in turn, was predictive for 28-day outcome.

CONCLUSION: The data, obtained during ICU-acquired fever and infections, suggest that CRP may be favoured over PCT courses in judging response to antibiotic treatment. PCT, however, may better indicate the risk of complications, such as bloodstream infection, septic shock, organ failure and mortality, and therefore might help deciding on safe discontinuation of antibiotics. The analysis may thus help interpreting current literature and design future studies on guiding antibiotic therapy in the ICU.

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