OBJECTIVES:

Procalcitonin (PCT) was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2016. We assessed changes in PCT utilization over time in emergency departments (EDs) at US Children’s Hospitals and identified the most common conditions associated with PCT testing.

METHODS:

We performed a cross-sectional study of children <18 years of age presenting to 1 of 33 EDs contributing data to the Pediatric Health Information System between 2016 and 2020. We examined trends in PCT utilization during an ED encounter between institutions and over the study period. Using All Patients Refined Diagnosis Related Groups, we identified the most common conditions for which PCT was obtained (overall, and relative to the performance of a complete blood count).

RESULTS:

The overall rate of PCT testing increased from 0.2% of all ED visits in 2016 to 1.8% in 2020. Across hospitals, the proportion of ED encounters with PCT obtained ranged from 0.0005% to 4.3% with marked variability in overall use. Among children who had PCT testing performed, the most common diagnoses were fever (10.7%), infections of the upper respiratory tract (9.2%), and pneumonia (5.9%). Relative to the performance of a complete blood count, rates of PCT testing were highest among children with sepsis (28.7%), fever (21.4%), pulmonary edema/respiratory failure (17.3%), and bronchiolitis/respiratory syncytial virus pneumonia (15.6%).

CONCLUSIONS:

PCT utilization in the ED has increased over the past 5 years with variation between hospitals. PCT is most frequently obtained for children with respiratory infections and febrile illnesses.

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