HYPOTHESIS: Infections and sepsis are major complications in secondary peritonitis and still represent a diagnostic challenge. We hypothesized that the laboratory marker procalcitonin would provide an early and reliable assessment of septic complications. DESIGN: Prospective, international, multicenter inception cohort study. SETTING: Five European surgical referral centers. PATIENTS: Eighty-two patients with intraoperatively proven secondary peritonitis were enrolled within 96 hours of symptom onset. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Procalcitonin and the laboratory routine marker C-reactive protein (CRP) were prospectively assessed and monitored for a maximum of 21 consecutive days. RESULTS: Procalcitonin concentrations were most closely correlated with the development of septic multiorgan dysfunction syndrome (MODS), with peak levels occurring early after symptom onset or during the immediate postoperative course. No such correlation was observed for CRP. According to receiver operating characteristic analysis, a procalcitonin value of 10.0 ng/mL or greater on 2 consecutive days was superior to a CRP level of 210 mg/L or greater for predicting septic MODS, with sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values of 65\%, 92\%, 83\%, and 81\% for procalcitonin and 67\%, 58\%, 49\%, and 74\% for CRP, respectively (P<.001). Assessment of septic MODS was already possible on the first 2 postoperative days, with similar sensitivity and specificity. Persisting procalcitonin levels greater than 1.0 ng/mL beyond the first week after disease onset strongly indicated nonsurvival and were significantly better than CRP in assessing overall prognosis (P<.001). CONCLUSIONS: Procalcitonin monitoring is a fast and reliable approach to assessing septic MODS and overall prognosis in secondary peritonitis. This single-test marker improves stratification of patients who will develop clinically relevant complications.
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