Reduction in antibiotic use through procalcitonin testing in patients in the medical admission unit or intensive care unit with suspicion of infection

J Hosp Infect. 2011 Aug;78(4):289-92. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2011.03.018. Epub 2011 Jun 2.


We report an evaluation of the utility of serum procalcitonin (PCT) measurement as an additional diagnostic tool to support initiating or withholding antibiotics in clinical situations where there is a clinical suspicion of infection but the diagnosis is uncertain. During a six-month period, 99 patients on the medical admission unit (MAU) with suspected infection, and 42 patients on the intensive care unit (ICU) with clinical signs or physiological parameters suggesting possible new infection, had serum PCT concentration measured with the result available within 90min of the request. The test was initiated by the microbiology/infection team during clinical consultations to support the antibiotic decision. On the basis of low PCT values, antibiotics were withheld in MAU on 52 occasions and in ICU on 42 occasions. Patients were followed up prospectively for a week. There was neither progression of bacterial infection requiring antibiotics, nor complications or infection-related mortality in any patients who were denied antibiotics on either MAU or ICU. Without the PCT value it is likely that all of these patients would have received empirical antibiotics. Reduction in unnecessary antibiotic usage was made without any adverse effects on these patients and there was a clear reduction in antibiotic prescribing with cost reduction implications. PCT has the potential to become a valuable tool in antibiotic management.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bacteremia / diagnosis*
  • Calcitonin / blood*
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / methods*
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Protein Precursors / blood*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • CALCA protein, human
  • Protein Precursors
  • Calcitonin
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide