Use of procalcitonin as a biomarker for sepsis in moderate to major paediatric burns

Linda Hollén*, Ryan Hughes, Nick Dodds, Karen Coy, Karen Marlow, Nicola Pullan, Julie Davies, Narges Dailami, Katrina Keating, Sian Falder, Mamta Shah, Amber Young

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Introduction: Accurate and early detection of sepsis poses a significant challenge in burn populations. Our objective was to assess whether procalcitonin is a marker of blood culture positive sepsis in moderate to severe paediatric burns. Methods: We analysed procalcitonin levels in 27 children admitted with burns of 15–65% total body surface area. Procalcitonin was measured at admission (baseline), 24 and 48 h post-admission and during periods of suspected sepsis (diagnosed against pre-defined criteria). Patients were categorised into controls with no episodes of suspected sepsis (n = 10) and those with episodes of suspected sepsis (n = 17). The latter were split into two groups based on blood culture results: culture positive (bacteraemia) and culture negative patients. Results: Baseline procalcitonin levels increased with burn size (odds ratio (95% confidence interval): 1.15 (1.02–1.29)). Suspected sepsis patients had larger burns than controls (median 31 vs. 20%; p = 0.003). Only 5/23 suspected sepsis episodes were blood culture positive. Procalcitonin levels were similar in culture positive and culture negative patients (p = 0.43). Sensitivity for predicting positive blood culture was 100% (95% confidence interval: 47.8–100.0%) but specificity was only 22.2% (95% confidence interval: 6.4–47.6%). Area under the curve was poor at 0.62 (95% confidence interval: 0.33–0.90). There was no significant change in procalcitonin levels from baseline to septic episode in either group (positive: p = 0.35; negative: p = 0.95). Conclusion: We conclude that evidence for the use of procalcitonin to diagnose bacteraemia in this population is poor, with burn size playing a significant role implying a correlation with systemic inflammation rather than sepsis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-200
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Early online date27 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • Procalcitonin
  • sepsis
  • burn injury
  • children
  • C-reactive protein

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