This systematic review by Andriolo et al was published in the Cochrane Library in January 2017. The text below is the plain language summary with the full text available via this link.
Review question: Is procalcitonin evaluation effective in reducing mortality and time receiving antimicrobial therapy in adults with sepsis?
Background: Sepsis is defined as confirmed or suspected infection associated with a systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS). This condition can evolve to an acute organ dysfunction, known as ‘severe sepsis’; or to persistent hypotension, even after adequate fluid replacement, known as ‘septic shock’. Procalcitonin (PCT) is a biological indicator in the blood that has been found to increase during blood infection. We wanted to assess whether evaluation of PCT can reduce mortality and time receiving antimicrobial therapy in adults with blood infection. To this end, we compared PCT versus nothing, versus standard care (only usual clinical judgement) and versus other blood chemical indicators. Nowadays, other chemical indicators include C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukins and neopterin.
Study characteristics: The evidence is current to July 2015. However, we reran the search in October 2016 and will incorporate the three studies of interest when we update the review. For this version, we included 10 studies in this review. These studies were carried out in Australia, Brazil, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Indonesia and Switzerland. Researchers evaluated participants from academic and non-academic surgical, general and trauma intensive care units (ICUs) and emergency departments. All studies analysed adults with confirmed or presumed blood infection. Comparisons were most commonly based on ‘standard care’, but one trial used CRP-guided antibiotic therapy. In six trials, study authors had worked as consultants for, and/or received payments from, companies involved in the procalcitonin analysis.
Key results: Results showed no significant differences in mortality at longest follow-up (124/573; 21.6% versus 152/583; 26.1%), at 28 days (37/160; 23.1% versus 39/156; 25%), at ICU discharge (28/247; 11.3% versus 25/259; 9.6%) or at hospital discharge (82/398; 20.6% versus 81/407; 19.9%), respectively, for PCT and non-PCT groups. Also, researchers found no differences in mechanical ventilation, clinical severity, reinfection or duration of antimicrobial therapy. No study provided information about participants for whom the antimicrobial regimen was changed from a broad to a narrower spectrum.
Quality of the evidence: We considered the body of available evidence as having very low to moderate quality owing to absence of methods to prevent errors during studies or absence of information about such methods, as well as possibly insufficient numbers of studies and patients per outcome. Additionally, the authors of most studies worked as consultants and/or received payments from companies involved in the procalcitonin analysis.