Rationale and objectives: When polymorphonucleocytes are incubated in proteinaceous fluid, they cause extensive protein degradation, which leads to accumulation of free amino acids. The authors tested whether these free amino acids, particularly valine and leucine, also accumulate in human abscess fluids, but not in other body fluids, and thus could be a specific and distinguishing marker for the presence of an abscess.
Methods: Thirty fluids, obtained by percutaneous drainage from 28 patients, were lyophilized and reconstituted in 2H2O before in vitro 1H magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy. Concentrations of valine and leucine were determined by comparison of spectra before and after addition of known amounts of valine and leucine. Two chart reviewers, blinded to the spectroscopic results, categorized cases as abscess (n = 14), non-abscess (n = 15), or infection but not abscess (n = 1).
Results: The concentration of valine and leucine was significantly higher in the abscess fluids, 2.57 +/- 1.90 mM than in the non-abscess fluids, 0.25 +/- 0.33 mM (P < .001). The one infected fluid which was not an abscess had no amino acids. Using 0.8 mM as the threshold concentration of valine and leucine necessary for the diagnosis of abscess resulted in a sensitivity rate of 86% and a specificity rate of 94%.
Conclusion: The authors conclude that identification of high concentrations of valine and leucine by 1H MR spectroscopy may be a specific test for the diagnosis of abscess. This technique merits further investigation in vivo.