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Procalcitonin Test

What is a Procalcitonin Test?

A procalcitonin test measures the level of procalcitonin in your blood. A high level could be a sign of a serious bacterial infection, such as sepsis. Sepsis is the body's severe response to infection. Sepsis happens when an infection in one area of your body, such as your skin or urinary tract, spreads into your bloodstream. This triggers an extreme immune reaction. It can cause a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, decreased blood pressure, and other symptoms. Without quick treatment, sepsis can lead to organ failure or even death.

A procalcitonin test can help your health care provider determine if you have sepsis or another serious bacterial infection in the early stages. This may help you get treated promptly and avoid life-threatening complications.

Other names: PCT test

What is it used for?

A procalcitonin test may be used to help:

Why do I need a procalcitonin test?

You may need this test if you have symptoms of sepsis or another serious bacterial infection. These symptoms include:

This test is usually performed in the hospital. It is mostly used for people who come to the emergency room for treatment and for people who are already in the hospital.

What happens during a procalcitonin test?

A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

You don't need any special preparation for a procalcitonin test.

Are there any risks to the test?

There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.

What do the results mean?

If your results show a high procalcitonin level, it's likely you have a serious bacterial infection such as sepsis or meningitis. The higher the level, the more severe your infection may be. If you are being treated for an infection, decreasing or low procalcitonin levels can show that your treatment is working.

Is there anything else I need to know about a procalcitonin test?

Procalcitonin tests are not as precise as other laboratory tests for infections. So your health care provider will need to review and/or order other tests before making a diagnosis. But a procalcitonin test does offer important information that can help your provider start treatment sooner and may help you avoid serious illness.

References

  1. AACC [Internet] Washington D.C.; American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2017. Do We Need Procalcitonin for Sepsis?; 2015 Feb [cited 2017 Oct 15]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.aacc.org/publications/cln/articles/2015/february/procalcitonin-for-sepsis
  2. Balci C, Sungurtekin H, Gürses E, Sungurtekin U, Kaptanoğlu, B. Usefulness of procalcitonin for diagnosis of sepsis in the intensive care unit. Crit Care [Internet]. 2002 Oct 30 [cited 2017 Oct 15]; 7(1):85–90. Available from:
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Sepsis: Basic Information [updated 2017 Aug 25; cited 2017 Oct 15]; [about 4 screens]. Available from:
  4. Children's Minnesota [Internet]. Minneapolis (MN): Children's Minnesota; c2017. Chemistry: Procalcitonin [cited 2017 Oct 15]; [about 2 screens]. Available from:
  5. LabCorp [Internet]. Burlington (NC): Laboratory Corporation of America; c2017. Procalcitonin [cited 2017 Oct 15]; [about 3 screens]. Available from:
  6. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2017. Procalcitonin: The Test [updated 2017 Apr 10; cited 2017 Oct 15]; [about 4 screens]. Available from:
  7. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2017. Procalcitonin: The Test Sample [updated 2017 Apr 10; cited 2017 Oct 15]; [about 3 screens]. Available from:
  8. Mayo Clinic: Mayo Medical Laboratories [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1995–2017. Test ID: PCT: Procalcitonin, Serum [cited 2017 Oct 15]; [about 2 screens]. Available from:
  9. Meisner M. Update on Procalcitonin Measurements. Ann Lab Med [Internet]. 2014 Jul [cited 2017 Oct 15]; 34(4): 263–273. Available from:
  10. Merck Manual Professional Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co. Inc.; c2017. Sepsis, Severe Sepsis and Septic Shock [cited 2017 Dec 9]; [about 2 screens]. Available from:
  11. Merck Manual Professional Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co. Inc.; c2017. Sepsis and Septic Shock [cited 2017 Oct 15]; [about 2 screens]. Available from:
  12. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; What To Expect with Blood Tests [updated 2012 Jan 6; cited 2017 Oct 15]; [about 4 screens]. Available from:
  13. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; What Are the Risks of Blood Tests? [updated 2012 Jan 6; cited 2017 Oct 15]; [about 5 screens]. Available from:

The medical information provided is for informational purposes only, and is not to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact your health care provider with questions you may have regarding medical conditions or the interpretation of test results.

In the event of a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.