Usefulness of procalcitonin levels in community-acquired pneumonia according to the patients outcome research team pneumonia severity index

Chest. 2005 Oct;128(4):2223-9. doi: 10.1378/chest.128.4.2223.


Study objectives: To evaluate the usefulness of procalcitonin serum levels as a predictor of etiology and prognosis in adult patients with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) when they are stratified according to severity.

Design: One-year, population-based, prospective study.

Setting: University teaching hospital.

Patients: All adult patients who received a diagnosis of CAP throughout the study period.

Interventions and measurements: An extensive noninvasive microbiological workup was performed. In patients who gave informed consent, a blood sample was collected at the time the diagnosis of CAP was established to measure biological markers. Procalcitonin levels were measured by a commercially available monoclonal immunoluminometric assay (limit of detection, 0.1 microg/L). Patients were classified according to microbial diagnosis, Patients Outcome Research Team pneumonia severity index (PSI), and outcome measures, and procalcitonin levels were compared among groups.

Results: Of 240 patients who received a diagnosis of CAP during the study period, procalcitonin concentrations were measured in 185 patients (77.1%). Levels were higher in patients with high-severity risk classes (PSI classes III-V) [p = 0.01] and in those with complications (p = 0.03) or death (p < 0.0001). Among patients classified into PSI low-severity risk classes (classes I-II), levels tended to be higher in those with bacterial etiology (p = 0.08); in this group, a serum procalcitonin level > or = 0.15 microg/L was more frequently found in patients with bacterial pneumonia than in those with nonbacterial pneumonia (p = 0.03). In patients with higher-severity risk classes, no significant differences were observed in procalcitonin levels among etiologic groups, but higher concentrations were associated with development of complications (p = 0.01) and death (p < 0.0001).

Conclusions: Procalcitonin contribution to the evaluation of CAP varies according to severity. While procalcitonin may have a role to predict the microbial etiology in patients with a low PSI score, in patients classified within high PSI risk classes, it is a prognostic marker rather than a predictor of etiology.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Calcitonin / blood*
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide
  • Community-Acquired Infections / blood*
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumonia / blood*
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / blood
  • Pneumonia, Viral / blood
  • Prospective Studies
  • Protein Precursors / blood*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Spain
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Biomarkers
  • CALCA protein, human
  • Protein Precursors
  • Calcitonin
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide