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Case Reports
, 12 (4), 353-7

ESR or CRP? A Comparison of Their Clinical Utility

Case Reports

ESR or CRP? A Comparison of Their Clinical Utility

A Osei-Bimpong et al. Hematology.


Objective: To review the normal reference values for erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and the significance of high values in the elderly, to re-examine the correlation, if any, between ESR and C-reactive protein (CRP) and to compare their utility and limitations for both health screening and clinical management of patients.

Methods: CRP and ESR were measured in 295 blood samples from male and female subjects in whom their family doctors had found no clinically significant symptoms nor abnormal physical sign and in whom all other pathology tests gave normal results. None had been hospitalised during at least a six-week period prior to the study.

Results: The results showed a mean ESR of 10 mm/1 h (range 0-25) in both males and females below the age of 40 yrs; this increased with age, to a mean of 18 mm (range 0-35) by 60 yrs in both men and women. In the CRP test, 95% of the samples in the >40 yrs group had CRP range of 0-18 mg/l compared with 0-10 mg/l in the younger subjects. The distribution plot of CRP results showed a left skew with mode at about 2 mg/l, whereas the equivalent ESR distribution shows a broad plateau with less skew. Thus, there was more overlapping of the numerical values for ESR and CRP in subjects younger than 40 yrs, as compared with those over 40 yrs old in whom the two sets of measurements were well separated. The relative utility of the two tests in clinical management of patients was also discussed. Different rates of increase and subsequent fall in the test results were shown over several weeks on a patient with an acute infection. Initially, both tests were increased, but after antibiotic therapy the CRP returned to normal indicating that remission had occurred, whereas the ESR remained high, indicating persistence of the infection. A subsequent dramatic increase in CRP to 180 mg/l confirmed the re-infection that had been indicated earlier by the ESR. After further antibiotic therapy CRP fell to normal, followed later by a slower reduction in ESR to a normal value for the patient's age.

Conclusion: This study confirms that after the age of 40, there is an age-related elevation of ESR, increasing steadily, especially after age 60 yrs. CRP is also affected by age, but to a much less extent. ESR and CRP appear to be equally useful and reliable as a screening test. Accordingly, in deciding which test should be carried out account must be taken of their relative convenience and cost. However, when required as a clinical test in the management of patients with specific diseases both tests should be carried out in tandem.

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