Effect of NIH-IV prostatitis on free and free-to-total PSA

Eur Urol. 2004 Dec;46(6):760-4. doi: 10.1016/j.eururo.2004.08.003.


Objective: To examine the effect of asymptomatic prostatic inflammation (NIH category IV prostatitis) on total PSA (tPSA), free serum PSA (fPSA) and the ratio of free-to-total prostate specific antigen (%fPSA). The role of free and %fPSA as a diagnostic tool for distinguishing between cancer and non-malignant diseases of the prostate was also investigated.

Material and methods: In a retrospective study 1090 prostate biopsies performed between January 2000 and September 2003 were evaluated and the levels of serum total and free PSA as well as the f/tPSA ratio were determined in samples obtained immediately before biopsy. 404 patients with full clinical and histological records were included in the study. All patients underwent 6 or 8 core primary prostate needle biopsies.

Results: A total of 404 patients were included in the analysis. 100 prostate cancer (PCa) (24.8%), 137 NIH-IV prostatitis (33.9%) and 143 patients with benign prostatic hyperplasias (BPH) (35.4%) were identified. 24 (5.9%) patients presented with both PCa and prostatitis on histology and were excluded from further analysis. The mean (median) levels of tPSA, fPSA and %fPSA were 11.94 ng/ml (8.0), 1.31 ng/ml (1.07) and 0.15 (0.14) for NIH-IV prostatitis; 11.94 ng/ml (8.35), 1.54 ng/ml and 0.13 (0.11) for prostate cancer; and 8.19 ng/ml (7.0), 1.48 ng/ml (1.03) and 0.18 (0.15) for BPH. No significant difference was found in tPSA levels between PCa and prostatitis (p = 0.32), while the difference in tPSA levels between PCa and BPH was significant (p = 0.007). Free PSA alone had no diagnostic power in distinguishing PCa from prostatitis (p = 0. 37) and BPH (p = 0. 61). By contrast, the f/tPSA ratio showed significant between-group differences (PCa versus prostatitis (p = 0. 011), PCa versus BPH (p = 0.0001).

Conclusions: Chronic asymptomatic prostatitis NIH category IV has similar effects on total PSA and free PSA levels in serum as PCa. fPSA alone cannot distinguish prostate cancer from non-malignant inflammatory disease of the prostate. The ratio of free-to-total PSA is significantly different in PCa and NIH category IV prostatitis.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood*
  • Prostatitis / blood*
  • Prostatitis / pathology
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Prostate-Specific Antigen