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Management of fever in prolonged profound neutropenia remains challenging with many possible infectious and non-infectious causes. We investigated whether procalcitonin (PCT) is superior to C-reactive protein (CRP) in discriminating between different etiologies of fever in this setting.
CRP and PCT were tested daily during 93 neutropenic episodes in 66 patients. During this study period 121 febrile episodes occurred and were classified into four categories based on clinical and microbiological findings: microbiologically documented infection (MDI); clinically documented infection (CDI); proven or probable invasive fungal disease (IFD); fever of unknown origin (FUO). Values of PCT and CRP at fever onset as well as 2 days later were considered for analysis of their performance in distinguishing etiologies of fever.
At fever onset no significant difference in PCT values was observed between different etiologies of fever, whereas median CRP values were significantly higher in case of IFD (median 98.8 mg/L vs 28.8 mg/L, p=0.027). Both PCT and CRP reached their peak at a median of 2 days after fever onset. Median PCT values on day 2 showed no significant difference between etiologies of fever. Median CRP values on day 2 were significantly higher in IFD (median 172 mg/L versus 78.4 mg/L, p=0.002). In MDI median CRP values rose > 100 mg/L, whereas they did not in CDI or FUO.
PCT has no added value over CRP for clinical management of fever in prolonged profound neutropenia. When performing reassessment 2 days after fever onset, CRP has better discriminatory power between etiologies of fever.