Procalcitonin - Serum TestDr. Pravalika DevisettiLast Updated on 21st March 2022
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What is the Procalcitonin-Serum test used for?
PCT is a useful biomarker to diagnose sepsis, prognosticate infection, and guide antibiotic therapies along with other laboratory parameters to quickly confirm if the person is having sepsis or at risk of developing sepsis. Following contact with bacterial infection, PCT becomes measurable in the serum between 2 and 4 hours and peaks around 6 to 8 hours. Increased PCT levels will decline within two to three days if the patient responds to treatment. For sepsis diagnosis and prognosis, PCT test is combined with blood culture and related clinical scores, such as SOFA and qSOF In summary, PCT has been widely used in the management of sepsis.
What is included in the Procalcitonin-Serum test?
Procalcitonin serum test includes a blood test that measures the amount of procalcitonin in the blood. Baseline PCT testing, in combination with clinical signs and symptoms, can help determine whether or not a bacterial infection is likely.
A procalcitonin level alone can forecast the presence of an infection. However, the procalcitonin level can only be used along with other parameters, not as a sole diagnostic test. Therefore, people are not treated solely based on their procalcitonin levels. Instead, a series of tests are required, and therapy is based on an interpretation of the data and the physician’s clinical judgement.
Procedure for Procalcitonin-Serum test
Like any other blood test, a procalcitonin test is done similarly. A health care expert will use a tiny needle to draw blood from a vein in your arm. Following the insertion of the needle, a small quantity of blood will be collected in a test tube or vial.
During sample collection, when the needle goes in or out, you may feel a slight sting. This normally takes a few minutes. Then the blood sample is sent to the laboratory to derive the results.
How to prepare for the Procalcitonin-Serum test?
The Procalcitonin test sample can be taken at any time of day. Therefore, there is no need to fast or make other particular preparations before the test.
But what you must do before any blood test is:
- Follow all the advice provided by your health care professional.
- Inform your healthcare provider or a laboratory professional if you did not follow these guidelines precisely. It is critical to be truthful. Even a minor deviation from the guidelines might significantly impact your test outcomes.
- Inform your healthcare practitioner about any medications, vitamins, or supplements you are taking.
Things to consider after the Procalcitonin-Serum test is complete
Once your reports are received, the results will be interpreted by your doctor.
- Low PCT levels do not rule out the possibility of bacterial infection.
- The need for follow-up and re-evaluation of PCT in the presence of clinical suspicion of infection is pivotal.
- Serial PCT readings can show if the patient is responding to the antibiotics or whether a treatment course change is required.
What types of infection can the Procalcitonin-Serum test detect?
It has mostly been used in persons who seek care in emergency rooms or are hospitalised in intensive care units (ICUs) with signs and symptoms of sepsis. This test is useful for the following purposes:
- Diagnosis of severe bacterial infections and sepsis in adults and children.
- It is used to identify renal involvement in urinary tract infections in children.
- Bacterial infection in neutropenic patients.
- Secondary infection after surgery
- Differential diagnosis of community-acquired bacterial vs. viral pneumonia
- For monitoring antibacterial treatment and response to the treatment.
How much does the Procalcitonin-Serum test cost?
Procalcitonin test can cost near Rs 1500 to Rs 2500 in India. Because this is not a regular test, it is not performed at all diagnostic centres. You must have to look for its availability with your healthcare provider. Or you could book your tests at home through the MFine app.
*Disclaimer: The value varies based on location, time, and your preferred lab partner.
How long does it take to get the Procalcitonin-Serum test results?
You can expect to get the Procalcitonin-Serum test results within 24 to 48 hours after the sample is collected. However, in certain cases, depending on the location, medical advice, and preferred lab partner, it may take longer.
What do abnormal Procalcitonin-Serum test results indicate?
A procalcitonin test determines the levels of procalcitonin in your blood. Less than 0.15 ng/ml is considered a normal range.
Low procalcitonin levels (0.15-0.49 ng/ml) suggest a localised infection that hasn’t spread or become systemic, or a systemic infection that’s less than six hours old. A critically unwell person may suggest a low risk of developing sepsis and progressing to severe sepsis and/or septic shock, but they do not rule it out.
Moderate elevations in PCT levels (0.50-1.99 ng/ml) may be the result of a non-infectious disease or an early infection and, along with other results, should be carefully examined. They can also be noticed in kids who have renal infections.
High procalcitonin (more than 2.0 ng/ml) might indicate a serious bacterial illness, such as sepsis (the body’s extreme reaction to infection). It occurs when an infection in one part of the body spreads to the circulation, such as the skin or the urinary system.
Disclaimer: Please consult with your doctor to interpret the test reports.
Is Procalcitonin-Serum a definitive test?
No, Procalcitonin serum test is not a definitive test. Procalcitonin tests are less accurate in the absence of other laboratory tests for diagnosing infections. Other tests, such as the Complete Blood Count, CRP, Blood/urine culture tests, blood gas analysis, Cerebrospinal fluid analysis etc., are advised by your doctor along with procalcitonin for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
Though procalcitonin has proved its value in diagnosing and assessing severity of bacterial infections or tissue damage, still, other tests are required to confirm the diagnosis.
However, a procalcitonin test provides critical information that can help your doctor start therapy sooner and may help you in preventing serious disease.
How to read the Procalcitonin-Serum report?
Alone, the procalcitonin test cannot diagnose infections. However, a doctor can tell if sepsis is present, how serious it is, and if it is likely to escalate to septic shock.
Although a doctor should analyse procalcitonin test findings, they are commonly stated as follows:
- Less than 0.15 ng/ml (normal range)
- 0.15-0.49 ng/ml (minor or no significant inflammatory response in the body)
- 0.50-1.99 ng/ml (moderate risk of progression to severe systemic infection)
- More than 2.0 ng/ml (High risk or severe sepsis)
High procalcitonin level, it’s likely you have a severe bacterial infection such as sepsis or meningitis. The higher the level, the more serious your infection. If you are being treated for an infection, decreased or low procalcitonin levels may indicate that your therapy is effective.
The test can also tell you whether you have a bacterial or viral infection. A viral infection is more likely if the symptoms are severe, yet procalcitonin level is very low. This will help your doctor to plan your treatment accordingly while avoiding the unnecessary usage of antibiotics.
When a person is being treated for sepsis or bacterial infection, declining procalcitonin levels over time indicate a response to therapy. Procalcitonin levels that are stable or rising may suggest that medication should be continued.
Thing to Note: The reference ranges depend on many factors, like patient age, sex, and test method, and ranges can be different in different laboratories.
Why book the Procalcitonin-Serum test?
You are advised for a procalcitonin-serum test when you are critically unwell and show signs and symptoms associated with sepsis, like
- Fever and chills
- Sweaty or clammy skin
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Reduced frequency of urination
- Low blood pressure
This test can aid in the early detection of sepsis and severe bacterial infections and distinguishing between a bacterial infection and non-bacterial infection. It is usually advised in hospital settings by a doctor if a patient gets admitted with severe infections like pneumonia or meningitis.
It can also be done to assess the severity of infection in your body, to monitor how well you respond to your antibiotic treatment, and/or decide whether treatment can be safely discontinued.
This test is occasionally ordered when there is any tissue damage from trauma, surgery, burns, or a viral pneumonia or if your doctor suspects any secondary bacterial infection during your stay in ICU.
The test is useful for doctors and is a very simple and quick way to diagnose the potentially serious condition; hence when done early could be pivotal to save lives. Whether in the emergency department (ED) or intensive care unit (ICU), a procalcitonin (PCT) test along with additional diagnostic tests are advised when a bacterial infection is suspected.
Procalcitonin-Serum test at home–How does it work?
If advised to be done at home, the Procalcitonin – Serum test is just like any other blood test. A lab technician visits your home when you book your tests through the MFine app. The lab technician first cleans the arm and then inserts a needle into a vein. The required amount of blood is then taken into a vial. The lab technician then removes the needle and places cotton wool or a bandage over the prick.
Are there any risks involved with the Procalcitonin-Serum test?
There is little risk involved in having a blood test. You may experience some discomfort or bruising where the needle was inserted, but most symptoms will quickly disappear.
Some common risks include:
- Nerve damage
- A hard lump
- Pain at the site of puncture.
What can affect the results for Procalcitonin-Serum?
There are conditions when procalcitonin test results can be affected:
- Patients who are undergoing peritoneal dialysis or hemodialysis.
- Procalcitonin levels can be quite high in patients with medullary thyroid carcinoma.
- Antibiotic usage in non-bacterial illnesses may delay adequate treatment and result in more antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
- Also, the severity of renal failure or insufficiency might affect procalcitonin levels and should be noted as potentially complicating clinical factors when reading PCT values.
As a result, elevated Procalcitonin-Serum levels should be interpreted with caution; doctors should combine this biomarker with the clinical symptoms and other lab tests when diagnosing and treating sepsis.
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Frequently asked questions | FAQs
Is the lab technician coming for Procalcitonin-Serum sample collection vaccinated?
Yes. Our lab technicians are fully vaccinated. Further, they also ensure safety by wearing masks and gloves and frequently sanitising themselves during sample collection.
Does MFine provide the interpretation for the results along with the reports?
Yes, MFine provides the interpretation for the result along with the reports. You can also avail a free medical consultation with a doctor to understand your reports accurately. The doctor will also advise and prescribe medicines, if required, based on the results.
How can I download my Procalcitonin-Serum test report?
- Log in to MFine.
- Go to your profile.
- Click on Attachment and Reports.
- Click on Lab Report.
- Download the report.
Are there any discount offers running on the Procalcitonin-Serum test?
Usually, you can avail yourself up to a 50% discount on Procalcitonin – Serum through MFine. However, the discount and test price may vary based on lab partner and location.
Why does procalcitonin increase bacterial infection?
Procalcitonin is a precursor of the hormone calcitonin. Normally procalcitonin gets converted to calcitonin as soon as it is released by Thyroid cells resulting in very low levels of procalcitonin. But in case of bacterial infections the PCT level increases because of inflammatory markers released in response to infection. The inflammatory markers that are produced, especially in bacterial infection causes increased procalcitonin production from other organs in the body like liver, pancreas, kidney, lungs etc. But a parallel increase of Calcitonin or serum calcium levels is not seen.
What happens if the procalcitonin level is found high?
In sepsis, plasma levels are found greater than or equal to 0.5 nanograms per millilitre, the results are interpreted as abnormal. You likely have a severe bacterial infection such as sepsis or meningitis or pneumonia. The higher the level, the more severe your infection may be.
Who is at risk of sepsis?
Sepsis is more prevalent among newborns, babies, and the elderly. However, persons with indwelling catheters, those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, and people with compromised immune systems, post-surgical patients are also at risk. If any bacterial infection related to lungs or brain or kidney or other major organs is not recognised promptly and treated accordingly, sepsis can develop even in healthy populations.
What further tests could be performed if the systemic bacterial infection is found?
Other tests may include, Complete blood count (CBC), lactate, blood gases, comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP), prothrombin time (PT), and/or partial thromboplastin time (PTT), and C-reactive protein (CRP). Again, not all tests are requested. It all depends on your clinical symptoms and your doctor decides what needs to be checked.
What causes procalcitonin levels to increase?
Procalcitonin (PCT) increases can occur in the absence of sepsis due to trauma, burns, multiorgan failure, or surgery. Procalcitonin levels can also be raised in medullary thyroid cancer, small cell lung cancer, pancreatitis, organ transplant rejections and ischemic bowel disease.
How is this test useful for COVID?
A procalcitonin test may help identify the status of inflammation and severity of the disease, and this is how it helps your doctor in assessing the severity and prognosis of COVID-19 in a person. This helps your doctor to decide if a patient needs hospitalisation or not, or whether they need oxygenation or not etc. This is why more and more doctors recommend patients to have a PCT test during a pandemic.
Disclaimer: The content is uniquely informative and is meant for educational use. Kindly use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified or registered healthcare provider.