Perioperative Procalcitonin in Predicting Infection in Children Undergoing Surgical Procedures

J Surg Res. 2021 Feb;258:332-338. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2020.09.028. Epub 2020 Oct 29.


Background: Procalcitonin (PCT) is a biomarker of bacterial infections with more sensitivity and specificity than commonly used inflammatory markers. PCT can be particularly helpful in the postsurgical population where the surgery itself often leads to noninfectious inflammation. We aimed to examine the utility of perioperative profiles of PCT in predicting infection in two pediatric surgical populations.

Methods: We conducted a prospective observational study of perioperative PCT in children undergoing cardiac or neurosurgery. Consenting patients with no preoperative infection or immune deficiency were enrolled. We measured plasma PCT levels within 24 h preprocedure and 24-48 h postprocedure. Demographic, clinical, and laboratory data were collected from the medical records including clinical suspicion and confirmed infections. Perioperative PCT changes and their associations with these data are reported.

Results: We enrolled 26 neuro and 15 cardiac surgery patients. There was postoperative clinical suspicion of infection in 3 neuro and 5 cardiac patients, and 1 neuro and 2 cardiac patients had subsequently confirmed infections. Cardiac patients had higher overall perioperative PCT increase than neuro cohort (P = 0.006). Neuro patient with infection had higher perioperative change in PCT (0.5 to 1.4 ng/mL) than noninfected neurosurgery patients. Cardiac patients with confirmed infections had higher postoperative levels which exceeded the previously described infection threshold of 2 ng/mL.

Conclusions: PCT is a useful early biomarker of postoperative infection in pediatric patients undergoing cardiac and neurosurgery. Patients who underwent cardiac surgery have significantly higher perioperative PCT rise than patients who underwent neurosurgery, and all patients with subsequently confirmed infections had at least 2-fold perioperative PCT increase.

Keywords: Cardiac surgery; Children; Neurosurgery; Pediatric; Predictors of infection; Procalcitonin.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / adverse effects
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infections / blood*
  • Infections / diagnosis
  • Infections / etiology
  • Male
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / adverse effects
  • Perioperative Period*
  • Postoperative Complications / blood*
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Procalcitonin / blood*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Biomarkers
  • Procalcitonin