Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Crit Care. 2006;10(5):R145.

Diagnostic value and prognostic implications of serum procalcitonin after cardiac surgery: a systematic review of the literature.

Author information

  • 1Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, Friedrich-Schiller-University, Erlanger Allee 103, 07743 Jena, Germany.



Systemic inflammatory response syndrome is common after surgery, and it can be difficult to discriminate between infection and inflammation. We performed a review of the literature with the aims of describing the evolution of serum procalcitonin (PCT) levels after uncomplicated cardiac surgery, characterising the role of PCT as a tool in discriminating infection, identifying the relation between PCT, organ failure, and severity of sepsis syndromes, and assessing the possible role of PCT in detection of postoperative complications and mortality.


We performed a search on MEDLINE using the keyword 'procalcitonin' crossed with 'cardiac surgery,' 'heart,' 'postoperative,' and 'transplantation.' Our search was limited to human studies published between January 1990 and June 2006.


Uncomplicated cardiac surgery induces a postoperative increase in serum PCT levels. Peak PCT levels are reached within 24 hours postoperatively and return to normal levels within the first week. This increase seems to be dependent on the surgical procedure and on intraoperative events. Although PCT values reported in infected patients are generally higher than in non-infected patients after cardiac surgery, the cutoff point for discriminating infection ranges from 1 to 5 ng/ml, and the dynamics of PCT levels over time may be more important than absolute values. PCT is superior to C-reactive protein in discriminating infections in this setting. PCT levels are higher with increased severity of sepsis and the presence of organ dysfunction/failure and in patients with a poor outcome or in those who develop postoperative complications. PCT levels typically remain unchanged after acute rejection but increase markedly after bacterial and fungal infections. Systemic infections are associated with greater PCT elevation than is local infection. Viral infections are difficult to identify based on PCT measurements.


The dynamics of PCT levels, rather than absolute values, could be important in identifying patients with infectious complications after cardiac surgery. PCT is useful in differentiating acute graft rejection after heart and/or lung transplantation from bacterial and fungal infections. Further studies are needed to define cutoff points and to incorporate PCT levels in useful prediction models.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center