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Undue Elevation of Procalcitonin in Pediatric Paracetamol Intoxication is Not Explained by Liver Cell Injury Alone

Eva Tschiedel, Roland Assert, Ursula Felderhoff-Müser, Simone Kathemann, Oliver Witzke, Peter Hoyer, Christian Dohna-Schwake


Introduction and aim. Procalcitonin is widely used as a biomarker to distinguish bacterial infections from other etiologies of systemic inflammation. Little is known about its value in acute liver injury resulting from intoxication with paracetamol. Material and methods. We performed a single-center retrospective analysis of the procalcitonin level, liver synthesis, liver cell damage and renal function of patients admitted with paracetamol-induced liver injury to a tertiary care children's hospital. Children with acute liver failure due to other reasons without a bacterial or fungal infection served as the control group. Twelve patients with acute paracetamol intoxication and acute liver injury were compared with 29 patients with acute liver failure. Results. The procalcitonin levels were higher in children with paracetamol intoxication than in patients with acute liver failure without paracetamol intoxication (median 24.8 (0.01-55.57) ng/mL vs. 1.36 (0.1-44.18) ng/mL; p < 0.005), although their liver and kidney functions were better and the liver cell injury was similar in both groups. Outcome analysis showed a trend towards better survival without transplantation in patients with paracetamol intoxication (10/12 vs. 15/29). Within each group, procalcitonin was significantly correlated with alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase but was not correlated with the International Normalized Ratio or paracetamol blood levels in the paracetamol group. In conclusion, paracetamol intoxication leads to a marked increase in procalcitonin serum levels, which are significantly higher than those seen in acute liver failure. Conclusion. The underlying mechanism is neither caused by infection nor fully explained by liver cell death alone and remains to be determined.

Key words. Children, Systemic inflammation, Acute liver failure

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The Official Journal of the Mexican Association of Hepatology, the Latin-American Association for the Study of the Liver and the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver

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