Objective: The aim of this study was to determine the validity of pleural fluid C-reactive protein (CRP) concentrations and/or pleural fluid to serum CRP ratio for differentiating tuberculous pleuritis (TBP) from malignant pleural effusion (MPE) in patients presenting with lymphocytic exudative pleural effusions.
Methodology: A cross-sectional study was conducted on 161 patients with pleural effusion who underwent diagnostic evaluation at Siriraj Hospital, Bangkok, Thailand, between April 2001 and March 2002. The complete biochemical analysis of pleural fluid, cultures of pleural fluid, and pathological examinations of pleural fluid and pleural tissue were performed. The CRP concentrations were then measured in stored sera and pleural fluid samples from patients with a lymphocytic exudative pleural effusion and with a definite diagnosis.
Results: Among the 148 patients with lymphocytic exudative pleural effusions, 55 were diagnosed with TBP, 60 with MPE, and 33 with non-specific pleuritis. Pleural fluid and serum CRP levels were significantly higher in the TBP group than in the MPE group (54.58 +/- 4.50 mg/L and 106.93 +/- 9.54 mg/L vs 12.66 +/- 3.52 mg/L and 49.66 +/- 8.84 mg/L, respectively, P < 0.001). The ratio of pleural fluid to serum CRP was significantly higher in the TBP group than in the MPE group (0.52 +/- 0.18 vs 0.30 +/- 0.16, P < 0.001). The optimum cut-off value for pleural fluid CRP level of > or =30 mg/dL had a sensitivity of 72% with 93% specificity, and the pleural fluid to serum CRP ratio cut-off value of 0.45 had a sensitivity of 60% with 89% specificity. A correlation between serum and pleural fluid CRP levels was observed in TBP patients but not in MPE patients.
Conclusion: In patients presenting with lymphocytic exudative pleural effusion, a simple marker of raised pleural fluid CRP level may be helpful in discriminating between TBP and MPE.