What is a procalcitonin test?
A procalcitonin test measures the level of procalcitonin in your blood. A high level could be a sign of a serious bacterial infection, such as sepsis. Sepsis is the body's severe response to infection. Sepsis happens when an infection in one area of your body, such as your skin or urinary tract, spreads into your bloodstream. This triggers an extreme immune reaction. It can cause a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, decreased blood pressure, and other symptoms. Without quick treatment, sepsis can lead to organ failure or even death.
A procalcitonin test can help your health care provider determine if you have sepsis or another serious bacterial infection in the early stages. This may help you get treated promptly and avoid life-threatening complications.
Other names: PCT test
What is it used for?
A procalcitonin test may be used to help:
- Diagnose sepsis and other bacterial infections, such as meningitis
- Diagnose kidney infections in children with urinary tract infections
- Determine the severity of a sepsis infection
- Find out whether an infection or illness is caused by bacteria
- Monitor the effectiveness of Antibiotics therapy
Why do I need a procalcitonin test?
You may need this test if you have symptoms of sepsis or another serious bacterial infection. These symptoms include:
- Fever and chills
- Extreme pain
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Very low blood pressure
This test is usually performed in the hospital. It is mostly used for people who come to the emergency room for treatment and for people who are already in the hospital.
What happens during a procalcitonin test?
A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?
You don't need any special preparation for a procalcitonin test.
Are there any risks to the test?
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
What do the results mean?
If your results show a high procalcitonin level, it's likely you have a serious bacterial infection such as sepsis or meningitis. The higher the level, the more severe your infection may be. If you are being treated for an infection, decreasing or low procalcitonin levels can show that your treatment is working.
Is there anything else I need to know about a procalcitonin test?
Procalcitonin tests are not as precise as other laboratory tests for infections. So your health care provider will need to review and/or order other tests before making a diagnosis. But a procalcitonin test does offer important information that can help your provider start treatment sooner and may help you avoid serious illness.
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