Procalcitonin and cytokine levels: relationship to organ failure and mortality in pediatric septic shock

Crit Care Med. 2000 Jul;28(7):2591-4. doi: 10.1097/00003246-200007000-00068.


Background: Procalcitonin (PCT), a marker of bacterial sepsis, may also act as a mediator of the inflammatory response to infection, and thus influence outcome.

Objective: To investigate the relationship between PCT, interleukin (IL)-10, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), organ failure, and mortality in pediatric septic shock.

Design: Prospective observational study.

Setting: A 16-bed pediatric intensive care unit of a university hospital.

Patients: A total of 75 children with septic shock having a median age of 43.1 months (range, 0.1-192 months). Children who had received antibiotics for >24 hrs were excluded. A total of 37 patients (49%) had meningococcal disease, and 72 patients (96%) required mechanical ventilation.

Interventions: The pediatric risk of mortality (PRISM) score, multiple organ system failure (MOSF) score, duration of ventilation, length of ICU stay, and outcome were recorded. PCT, IL-10, and TNF were measured at admission to the intensive care unit. Sequential PCT levels were available at 0 hrs and 24 hrs in 39 patients (52%).

Results: Observed mortality was 21/75 (28%). Data are median (range). The admission PCT (p = .0002) and TNF levels (p = .0001) were higher in children with higher MOSF scores. In survivors and nonsurvivors, the admission PCT was 82 ng/mL vs. 273 ng/mL (p = .03), IL-10 was 62 pg/mL vs. 534 pg/mL (p = .03), and TNF was 76 pg/mL vs. 480 pg/mL (p = .001), respectively. Area under the mortality receiver operating characteristic curve was 0.73 for PCT, 0.67 for IL-10, and 0.76 for TNF, compared with 0.83 for the PRISM score. Of 39 children, 16 (41%) with sequential PCT measurements showed no fall in PCT after 24 hrs treatment. These children had higher admission levels of IL-10 (p = .03), and TNF (p = .03) compared with children who demonstrated a subsequent fall in PCT. Although the former did not have a higher median PRISM (p = .28) or MOSF score (p = .19), observed mortality was 44% (7 of 16) compared with 9% (2 of 23) (p = .02).

Conclusion: The admission PCT, like TNF and IL-10, is related to the severity of organ failure and mortality in children with septic shock. A fall in PCT after 24 hrs of treatment may have favorable prognostic significance.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Calcitonin / blood*
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric
  • Interleukin-10 / blood*
  • Length of Stay
  • Multiple Organ Failure / blood*
  • Multiple Organ Failure / classification
  • Multiple Organ Failure / mortality*
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Protein Precursors / blood*
  • ROC Curve
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Shock, Septic / blood*
  • Shock, Septic / classification
  • Shock, Septic / mortality
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism*


  • CALCA protein, human
  • Protein Precursors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interleukin-10
  • Calcitonin
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide