BACKGROUND: Procalcitonin (PCT) is a useful biomarker of bacterial infection and its use is associated to reduced duration of antibiotic therapy in the setting of intensive care medicine. To address the need of practical guidance for the use of PCT in various clinical settings, a group of experts was invited to participate at a consensus process with the aims of defining the rationale for appropriate use of PCT and for improving the management of critically ill patients with sepsis.
METHODS: A group of 14 experts from anesthesiology and critical care, infectious diseases, internal medicine, pulmonology, clinical microbiology, laboratory medicine, clinical pharmacology and methodology provided expert opinion through a modified Delphi process, after a comprehensive literature review.
RESULTS: The appropriateness of use of PCT in terms of diagnosis, prognosis and antimicrobial stewardship was assessed for different scenarios or settings such us management of infection in the emergency department, regular wards, surgical wards or in the intensive care unit. Similarly, appropriateness and timing of PCT measurement were evaluated. All the process consisted in three Delphi rounds.
CONCLUSIONS: PCT use is appropriate in algorithms for antibiotic de-escalation and discontinuation. In this case, reproducible, high sensitive assays should be used. However, initiation or escalation of antibiotic therapy in specific scenarios, including acute respiratory infections, should not be based solely on PCT serum levels. Clinical and radiological findings, evaluation of severity of illness and of patient's characteristics should be taken into proper account in order to correctly interpret PCT results.