Reliability of Admission Procalcitonin Testing for Capturing Bacteremia Across the Sepsis Spectrum: Real-World Utilization and Performance Characteristics, 65 U.S. Hospitals, 2008-2017

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Journal Article

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Critical care medicine




OBJECTIVES: Serum procalcitonin is often ordered at admission for patients with suspected sepsis and bloodstream infections (BSIs), although its performance characteristics in this setting remain contested. This study aimed to evaluate use patterns and performance characteristics of procalcitonin-on-admission in patients with suspected BSI, with or without sepsis. DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study. SETTING: Cerner HealthFacts Database (2008-2017). PATIENTS: Adult inpatients (≥ 18 yr) who had blood cultures and procalcitonin drawn within 24 hours of admission. INTERVENTIONS: None. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Testing frequency of procalcitonin was determined. Sensitivity of procalcitonin-on-admission for detecting BSI due to different pathogens was calculated. Area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) was calculated to assess discrimination by procalcitonin-on-admission for BSI in patients with and without fever/hypothermia, ICU admission and sepsis defined by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Adult Sepsis Event criteria. AUCs were compared using Wald test and p values were adjusted for multiple comparisons. At 65 procalcitonin-reporting hospitals, 74,958 of 739,130 patients (10.1%) who had admission blood cultures also had admission procalcitonin testing. Most patients (83%) who had admission day procalcitonin testing did not have a repeat procalcitonin test. Median procalcitonin varied considerably by pathogen, BSI source, and acute illness severity. At a greater than or equal to 0.5 ng/mL cutoff, sensitivity for BSI detection was 68.2% overall, ranging between 58.0% for enterococcal BSI without sepsis and 96.4% for pneumococcal sepsis. Procalcitonin-on-admission displayed moderate discrimination at best for overall BSI (AUC, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.72-0.73) and showed no additional utility in key subgroups. Empiric antibiotic use proportions were not different between blood culture sampled patients with a positive procalcitonin (39.7%) and negative procalcitonin (38.4%) at admission. CONCLUSIONS: At 65 study hospitals, procalcitonin-on-admission demonstrated poor sensitivity in ruling out BSI, moderate-to-poor discriminator for both bacteremic sepsis and occult BSI and did not appear to meaningfully alter empiric antibiotic usage. Diagnostic stewardship of procalcitonin-on-admission and risk assessment of admission procalcitonin-guided clinical decisions is warranted.


Biostatistics and Bioinformatics