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OBJECTIVES:Following surgery, it is difficult to distinguish a postoperative inflammatory reaction from infection. This study examined the predictive value of the biomarkers; procalcitonin, C-reactive protein, lactate, neutrophils, lymphocytes, platelets, and the biphasic activated partial thromboplastin time waveform in diagnosing bacterial infection following cardiac surgery. DESIGN:Prospective, observational study. SETTING:A regional, PICU in the United Kingdom. PATIENTS:Three-hundred sixty-eight children under the age of 16 admitted to the PICU for elective cardiac surgery were enrolled in the study. INTERVENTIONS:All biomarker measurements were determined daily until postoperative day 7. Children were assessed for postoperative infection until day 28 and divided into four groups: bacterial infection, culture-negative sepsis, viral infection, and no infection. We used the Kruskal-Wallis test, chi-square test, analysis of variance, and area under the curve in our analysis. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS:In total, 71 of 368 children (19%) developed bacterial infection postoperatively, the majority being surgical site infections. In those with bacterial infection, procalcitonin was elevated on postoperative days 1-3 and the last measurement prior to event compared with those without bacterial infection. The most significant difference was the last measurement prior to event; 0.72 ng/mL in the bacterial infection group versus 0.13 ng/mL in the no infection group (for all groups; p < 0.001). Longitudinal profiles of all biomarkers were indistinct in the bacterial infection and nonbacterial infection groups except in those with culture-negative infections who had distinct procalcitonin kinetics on postoperative days 1-4. Children with culture-negative sepsis required longer ventilatory support and PICU stay and were more likely to develop complications than the other groups. CONCLUSIONS:None of the biomarkers studied within 3 days of infection distinguished between infection and postoperative inflammatory reaction. However, procalcitonin kinetics peaked on postoperative day 2 and fell more sharply than C-reactive protein kinetics, which peaked at postoperative day 3. The monitoring of procalcitonin kinetics following cardiac surgery may help guide rational antimicrobial use.

Original publication




Journal article


Pediatric critical care medicine : a journal of the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the World Federation of Pediatric Intensive and Critical Care Societies

Publication Date



School of Medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom.