Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2020 May 7;77(10):745-758. doi: 10.1093/ajhp/zxaa089.
PURPOSE: Procalcitonin (PCT) is an endogenous hormone that increases reliably in response to bacterial infection, and measurement of serum PCT levels is recommended to help guide antimicrobial therapy. The utility of PCT assessment in special patient populations (eg, patients with renal dysfunction, cardiac compromise, or immunocompromised states and those undergoing acute care surgery) is less clear. The evidence for PCT-guided antimicrobial therapy in special populations is reviewed.
SUMMARY: In the presence of bacterial infection, nonneuroendocrine PCT is produced in response to bacterial toxins and inflammatory cytokines, resulting in markedly elevated levels of serum PCT. Cytokine induction in nonbacterial inflammatory processes activated by acute care surgery may alter the interpretation of PCT levels. The reliability of PCT assessment has also been questioned in patients with renal dysfunction, cardiac compromise, or immunosuppression. In many special populations, serum PCT may be elevated at baseline and increase further in the presence of infection; thus, higher thresholds for diagnosing infection or de-escalating therapy should be considered, although the optimal threshold to use in a specific population is unclear. Procalcitonin-guided antimicrobial therapy may be recommended in certain clinical situations.
CONCLUSION: Procalcitonin may be a reliable marker of infection even in special populations with baseline elevations in serum PCT. However, due to unclear threshold values and the limited inclusion of special populations in relevant clinical trials, PCT levels should be considered along with clinical criteria, and antibiotics should never be initiated or withheld based on PCT values alone. Procalcitonin measurement may have a role in guiding de-escalation of antibiotic therapy in special populations; however, the clinician should be aware of disease states and concomitant therapies that may affect interpretation of results.