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Eur Urol. 2004 Dec;46(6):760-4.

Effect of NIH-IV prostatitis on free and free-to-total PSA.

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Urology Department, Kaiser-Franz-Josef Hospital, Kundratstrasse 3, 1100 Vienna, Austria.



To examine the effect of asymptomatic prostatic inflammation (NIH category IV prostatitis) on total PSA (tPSA), free serum PSA (fPSA) and the ratio of free-to-total prostate specific antigen (%fPSA). The role of free and %fPSA as a diagnostic tool for distinguishing between cancer and non-malignant diseases of the prostate was also investigated.


In a retrospective study 1090 prostate biopsies performed between January 2000 and September 2003 were evaluated and the levels of serum total and free PSA as well as the f/tPSA ratio were determined in samples obtained immediately before biopsy. 404 patients with full clinical and histological records were included in the study. All patients underwent 6 or 8 core primary prostate needle biopsies.


A total of 404 patients were included in the analysis. 100 prostate cancer (PCa) (24.8%), 137 NIH-IV prostatitis (33.9%) and 143 patients with benign prostatic hyperplasias (BPH) (35.4%) were identified. 24 (5.9%) patients presented with both PCa and prostatitis on histology and were excluded from further analysis. The mean (median) levels of tPSA, fPSA and %fPSA were 11.94 ng/ml (8.0), 1.31 ng/ml (1.07) and 0.15 (0.14) for NIH-IV prostatitis; 11.94 ng/ml (8.35), 1.54 ng/ml and 0.13 (0.11) for prostate cancer; and 8.19 ng/ml (7.0), 1.48 ng/ml (1.03) and 0.18 (0.15) for BPH. No significant difference was found in tPSA levels between PCa and prostatitis (p = 0.32), while the difference in tPSA levels between PCa and BPH was significant (p = 0.007). Free PSA alone had no diagnostic power in distinguishing PCa from prostatitis (p = 0. 37) and BPH (p = 0. 61). By contrast, the f/tPSA ratio showed significant between-group differences (PCa versus prostatitis (p = 0. 011), PCa versus BPH (p = 0.0001).


Chronic asymptomatic prostatitis NIH category IV has similar effects on total PSA and free PSA levels in serum as PCa. fPSA alone cannot distinguish prostate cancer from non-malignant inflammatory disease of the prostate. The ratio of free-to-total PSA is significantly different in PCa and NIH category IV prostatitis.

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