Background: To determine the accuracy of serum-effusion albumin gradient (SEAG) and pleural fluid to serum albumin ratio (ALBR) in the diagnostic separation of pleural effusion into transudate and exudate and to compare SEAG and ALBR with pleural fluid LDH (FLDH) the most widely used test.
Methods: Data collected from 200 consecutive patients with a known cause of pleural effusion in a United Kingdom district general hospital.
Results: The median and inter quartile ranges (IQR) for SEAG 93.5 (33.8 to 122.5) g/dl, ALBR 0.49 (0.42 to 0.62) and FLDH 98.5 IU/L(76.8 to 127.5) in transudates were significantly lower than the corresponding values for exudates 308.5 (171 to 692), 0.77 (0.63 to 0.85), 344 (216 to 695) all p < 0.0001. The Area Under the Curve (AUC) with 95% confidence intervals (Cl) for SEAG, ALBR and FLDH were 0.81 (0.75 to 0.87), 0.79 (0.72 to 0.86) and 0.9 (0.87 to 0.96) respectively. The positive likelihood ratios with 95%CI for FLDH, SEAG, and ALBR were: 7.3(3.5-17), 6.3(3-15) 6.2(3-14) respectively. There was a significant negative correlation between SEAG and ALBR (r= -0.89, p < 0.0001).
Conclusion: The discriminative value for SEAG and ALBR appears to be similar in the diagnostic separation of transudates and exudates. FLDH is a superior test compared to SEAG and ALBR.