Sensitivity and specificity of various markers of inflammation for the prediction of tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6 in patients with sepsis

Crit Care Med. 1999 Sep;27(9):1814-8. doi: 10.1097/00003246-199909000-00018.


Objectives: To determine correlations and predictive strength of surrogate markers (body temperature, leukocyte count, C-reactive protein [CRP], and procalcitonin [PCT]) with elevated levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) in septic patients.

Design: Prospective consecutive case series.

Setting: Surgical intensive care unit (ICU) of a university hospital.

Patients: A total of 175 patients experiencing intensive care unit stays >48 hrs categorized for sepsis according to ACCP/ SCCM Consensus Conference criteria.

Measurements and main results: CRP and PCT were both significantly correlated with TNF-alpha and IL-6. Based on the area-under-the-curve of the receiver operating characteristics curves, predicting capability was highest for PCT (0.814 for TNF-alpha >40 pg/mL and 0.794 for IL-6 >500 pg/mL), moderate with CRP (0.732 and 0.716, respectively), and lowest for leukocyte count (0.493 and 0.483, respectively) and body temperature (0.587 and 0.589, respectively). Sensitivity, specificity, positive, and negative predictive values and test effectiveness all followed this same pattern of being highest for PCT followed by CRP, with leukocyte count and body temperature being lowest.

Conclusion: PCT may be an early and better marker of elevated cytokines than the more classic criteria of inflammation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Body Temperature
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Calcitonin / blood
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide
  • Female
  • Glycoproteins / blood
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / blood*
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Protein Precursors / blood
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sepsis / immunology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • CALCA protein, human
  • Glycoproteins
  • Interleukin-6
  • Protein Precursors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Calcitonin
  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide