Performance of procalcitonin in diagnosing parapneumonic pleural effusions: A clinical study and meta-analysis

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Parapneumonic pleural effusion (PPE) is a common complication of pneumonia. The accurate diagnosis of PPE remains a challenge. Recent studies suggest that procalcitonin (PCT) emerges as a potential biomarker for PPE. Our study aimed to determine the diagnostic value of PCT for PPE by a clinical study and summarize the overall diagnostic performance of PCT through a meta-analysis.


Demographic and clinical data of the patients with PPE and controls were collected in our clinical study. The diagnostic performances of serum PCT (s-PCT) were analyzed via receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis, using area under the curve (AUC) as a measure of accuracy. Literature databases were systematically searched for the studies examining the accuracy of PCT for diagnosing PPE. Data on sensitivity, specificity, positive/negative likelihood ratio (PLR/NLR), and diagnostic odds ratio (DOR) were pooled. Summary ROC curves and AUC were used to evaluate overall test performance.


In our clinical study, 47 patients with PPE and 101 controls were included. The s-PCT levels were significantly increased in the setting of PPE (5.44 ± 9.82 ng/mL) compared with malignant PE (0.15 ± 0.19 ng/mL), tuberculous PE (0.18 ± 0.16 ng/mL), and transudates (0.09 ± 0.03 ng/mL) (P < .001). Using a cutoff value of 0.195 ng/mL, the sensitivity and specificity of s-PCT in diagnosing PPE were 0.83 and 0.80, respectively, and AUC was 0.89. In addition, 11 studies were included in our meta-analysis. Summary performance estimates for s-PCT in diagnosing PPE were as follows: sensitivity, 0.78 (95% CI: 0.71–0.84); specificity, 0.74 (95% CI: 0.69–0.78); PLR, 3.46 (95% CI: 2.09–5.74); NLR, 0.27 (95% CI: 0.14–0.54); DOR, 12.37 (95% CI: 4.34–41.17); and AUC, 0.84. The corresponding estimates for p-PCT were as follows: sensitivity, 0.62 (95% CI: 0.57–0.67); specificity, 0.71 (95% CI: 0.68–0.75); PLR 2.31 (95% CI: 1.81–2.95); NLR, 0.47 (95% CI: 0.35–0.63); DOR, 5.48 (95% CI: 3.07–9.77); and AUC, 0.80.


Both s-PCT and p-PCT might have modest performance in diagnosing PPE. However, more studies on a large scale should be performed to confirm our findings.

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