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Measuring procalcitonin levels can reduce ICU antibiotic exposure and hospital stay

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The amount time patients spend on antibiotics in intensive care can be reduced using a protocol that measures levels of the hormone procalcitonin in the bloodstream, according to a study.

The Swiss research randomly assigned 72 patients in ICU with severe sepsis or septic shock to either an intervention group or a control group.

Those in the intervention group were treated using a protocol where antibiotic cessation decisions were based on bloodstream levels of procalcitonin.

Patients in the control group had their antibiotic treatment ceased according to a previously-defined clinical protocol unrelated to procalcitonin levels.

Procalcitonin is known to be an indicator of the presence of sepsis and is only produced by the body in the presence of severe bacterial infection.

Results showed that patients in the intervention group spent an average of six days on antibiotics, compared with the control group average of 12.5 days.

The study also found that the procalcitonin therapy did no harm and patients in this group spent just 17 days in hospital compared with the control group average of 23.5 days.

American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (2008) 177: 498-505
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