Is there a Role for Procalcitonin in Delirium?

Research Article

Gerontol Geriatr Res. 2016; 2(2): 1010.

Is there a Role for Procalcitonin in Delirium?

Hamza SA¹, Ali SH¹*, ElMashad NB² and Elsobki HS³

¹Department of Geriatrics and Gerontology, University of Ain Shams, Egypt

²Department of Clinical Pathology, University of Mansoura, Egypt

³Department of Geriatrics, University of Mansoura, Egypt

*Corresponding author: Safaa Hussein Ali, Department of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ain Shams, Abbassia District, Ramsis Street, Cairo, Egypt

Received: April 05, 2016; Accepted: May 06, 2016; Published: May 09, 2016


Background: the pathophysiology of delirium is not fully understood. Inflammation or acute stress responses are less supported Pathophysiological mechanisms.

Objective: To assess the relationship between Procalcitonin (PCT) and delirium among newly admitted delirious elderly patients.

Methods: A case control study was conducted on two groups of elderly hospitalized patients. The case group comprised of 45 elderly patients diagnosed with delirium and compared with 45 elderly patients who are not delirious. Patients were screened, on admission, with “Confusion Assessment Method” CAM, Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II (APACHE) score; Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) and Systemic Inflammatory Response (SIR) were assessed.

Results: Delirious patients are older and have higher APACHE score and ESR. Procalcitonin is significantly higher in delirious group in univariant (0.9±0.6 vs. 0.4±0.4ng/mL, P<0.001) and multivariate analysis (OR= 35.59, CI (7.73- 163.76)). Procalcitonin is not affected by presence of inflammation defined by SIR in delirious patients. Prolacitinon had low diagnostic performance as shown by ROC curve (AUC = 0.812, P= <0.001) while APACHE had significantly high diagnostic performance in discrimination of delirium (AUC = 0.877, P= <0.001).

Conclusion: Procalcitonin is rising in delirium independent of age and inflammation.

Keywords: Delirium; Procalcitonin; Elderly; Infection


APACHE: Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II; AUC: Area Under the Curve; CAM: Confusion Assessment Method; CRP: C-Reactive Protein; DSM-IV: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; ESR: Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate; ICU: Intensive Care Unit; PCT: Procalcitonin; SIR: Systemic Inflammatory Response


Delirium is a common and serious condition among the elderly, particularly in hospitalized patients, affecting up to 30% of this patient population [1]. Overall, delirium has been associated with the increase of hospital stay, cognitive decline, functional decline, institutionalization and mortality [2].

The etiology of delirium is usually multifactorial, resulting commonly from a combination of predisposing and precipitating factors. Its pathophysiological mechanisms remain poorly understood, with some evidence for the contribution of neurotransmission disruption, inflammation, or acute stress responses [2].

Procalcitonin (PCT) is an amino acid precursor of calcitonin which under normal circumstances is produced by the thyroid C-cells, Serum concentrations of PCT are normally <0.05 ng/mL but in circumstances of systemic inflammation, particularly bacterial infection, PCT is produced in large quantities by many body tissues. It is detectable within 2-4 hours and peaks within 6-24 hours as opposed to CRP which begins to rise after 12-24 hours and peaks at 48 hours [3].

Although PCT is the pro-hormone for calcitonin, the biologic activities are distinctly different [4]. In the C cells of the thyroid gland and K cells of the lung, elevated serum calcium concentrations or neoplastic changes result in transcription of the PCT gene. Subsequently, ribosomal synthesis of the 116-amino-acid PCT molecule occurs, with subsequent cleavage of amino acids 60 to 91 yielding calcitonin. Calcitonin’s only recognized biologic activity is to lower the serum calcium concentration by inhibiting bone resorption [5].

In the presence of bacterial infection, there is a significant increase in CALC-1 gene expression in parenchymal tissue and in differentiated cell types in the body producing PCT [6]. The rise in PCT levels in bacterial infections is not significantly affected by liver [7] or renal [8] abnormalities, though patients on hemodialysis are an exception in whom elevated PCT levels have been reported in the absence of bacterial infection [9].

Several previous investigations in non-ICU patients established an association between inflammation and delirium, as correlations between proinflammatory cytokine levels and delirium has been found [10]. Delirium is common in systemic inflammatory states which may contribute to delirium pathogenesis through breakdown of the blood–brain barrier, microglial activation, and neuroinflammation [11]. Apart from well-established pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines [12], PCT plays a role in inflammation, directly associated with delirium [13].

In a prospective study by McGrane et al, inflammatory biomarkers, procalcitonin and CRP (C-reactive protein) were measured in mechanically ventilated patients. Investigators found that higher levels of procalcitonin and CRP were associated with delirium and less coma-free days, implicating inflammation as an important the inflammatory changes within the brain [14]. Our question is: Do Procalcitonin have a role in delirium? Is this role related to inflammation? The aim of this study is to compare between delirious and non-delirious as regard Procalctnin level in a group of elderly hospitalized patients.



The procedures and rationale for the study were explained to all patients. Because patients had The Confusion Assessment Method, CAM, for delirium at study entry, it was presumed that most were incapable of giving informed written consent. Family caregivers provided a written informed consent using a protocol approved by the local ethics committee of Mansoura university hospitals. A Mansoura university hospital is a tertiary care teaching hospital attached to the faculty of medicine of Mansoura University and its capacity is 255 beds. The hospitals include most of the specialties. Admission rate is about 20:50 cases per day according to available beds and vacant intensive care unit places. This is a case control study. Sample of 90 Egyptian elderly aged sixty years and above divided into 45cases with delirium and 45controls. Subjects have been recruited from Mansoura university hospital over a period of four months.

Extensive demographic and clinical data were also collected at this time including comorbidities. Extensive demographic and clinical data include age, gender, living arrangement, income and financial support, level of education, smoking status, substance abuse, sensory and visual impairment, drug history, surgical history, previous admissions, iatrogenic complications and care giver assessment. Information was collected regarding the co-morbidities. Calculation of Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II score (APACHE II): APACHE II score provides a classification of severity of disease. It is calculated from the scores for 12 routine physiologic measurements made during the first 24h after admission. An increasing score (range 0 to 71) was closely correlated with the subsequent risk of hospital death. Mortality risk calculated from APACHE II score [15]. SIR was determined. SIR is defined as a clinical response to a nonspecific insult of either infectious or noninfectious origin. SIR is defined as 2 or more of the following variables:

• Fever of more than 38°C (100.4°F) or less than 36°C (96.8°F

• Heart rate of more than 90 beats per minute

• Respiratory rate of more than 20 breaths per minute or arterial carbon dioxide tension (Pac 2) of less than 32 mm Hg

• Abnormal white blood cell count (>12,000/μL or < 4,000/μL or >10% immature [band] forms) [16]

Inclusion criteria: elderly patient above 60 years old willing to participate in the study.

Exclusion criteria: Patients with the following conditions will be excluded as it leads to elevation of Procalciton: Renal failure, peritoneal dialysis, hemodialysis [9].

-Thyroid cancer [17].

-Acute myocardial infarction [18].

-Acute pancreatitis [19].

-Sever trauma, burns [20] (Figure 1).