An ESICM systematic review and meta-analysis of procalcitonin-guided antibiotic therapy algorithms in adult critically ill patients

Intensive Care Med. 2012 Jun;38(6):940-9. doi: 10.1007/s00134-012-2563-7. Epub 2012 Apr 27.


Purpose: We sought to perform a systematic review and meta-analysis of procalcitonin(PCT)-guided antibiotic therapy algorithms for critically ill adult patients.

Methods: We performed a search in PubMed and in the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials. Seven evaluable randomised clinical trials (RCTs) were identified and analysed. Primary outcomes included the duration of antibiotic therapy for the first episode of infection and 28-day mortality. Secondary outcomes included length of ICU stay, length of hospitalisation, antibiotic-free days within the first 28 days of hospitalisation, recurrences, and superinfections.

Results: Data on the duration of antibiotic therapy for the first episode of infection were provided in five out of seven included RCTs, while data on 28-day mortality were provided in all of the included RCTs. Duration of antibiotic therapy for the first episode of infection was reduced in favour of PCT-guided treatment [pooled weighted mean difference (WMD) = -3.15 days, random effects model, 95 % confidence interval (CI) -4.36 to -1.95, P < 0.001]. There was no difference in 28-day mortality between the compared arms [fixed effect model (FEM), odds ratio = 0.96, 95 % CI 0.79-1.15, P = 0.63). Antibiotic-free days were increased within the first 28 days of hospitalisation in favour of the PCT-guided treatment arm (pooled WMD = 3.08 days, FEM, 95 % CI 2.06-4.10, P < 0.001). No difference was found regarding the remaining outcomes. Sensitivity analyses including studies of higher quality and studies using the TRACE method to measure PCT yielded similar results.

Conclusions: Procalcitonin-guided antibiotic therapy algorithms could help in reducing the duration of antimicrobial administration without having a negative impact on survival.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Calcitonin / therapeutic use*
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide
  • Critical Illness*
  • Humans
  • Protein Precursors / therapeutic use*


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