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The utility of point of care serum lactate in predicting serious adverse outcomes among critically ill adult patients at urban emergency departments of tertiary hospitals in Tanzania.

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Elevated serum lactate levels have been shown in numerous studies to be associated with serious adverse events, including mortality. Point of care lactate level is increasingly available in resource-limited emergency department (ED) settings. However, little is known about the predictive ability of for serious adverse events.

Aim of the study

We aimed to describe the utility of serum lactate level as a predictor of 24-h serious adverse events among adult patients presenting at the Emergency Medicine Department (EMD) of Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) and MUHAS Academic Medical Center (MAMC).


This was a prospective observational study involving adult patients presenting to the EMD-MNH and MAMC from 1 September 2018 and 31 October 2018. Eligible patients with at least one lactate level test drawn while in the ED were examined in terms of their demographics, relevant clinical characteristics, and any serious adverse event (SAE) within 24 h of arrival. The sensitivity and specificity of lactate level to predict outcomes of interest were determined using the best cut-off point constructed from AUROC to see how well lactate level could discriminate which patients would have adverse events in the next 24 h. Categorical and continuous variables were compared with the chi-square test and two-sample t test, respectively.


We screened 2057 (20.9%) out of 9828 patients who presented during study period, and enrolled 387 (18.8%). The overall median age was 54 years (interquartile range 40-68 years) and 206 (53.2%) were male. Using local triaging system, a total of 322 (83.2%) was triaged as an emergency category. The mean lactate level was 3.2 ± 3.6 mmol/L, 65 (16.8%) patients developed at least one SAE, with 42 (11%) who required ICU/HDU, 37 (10%) needed ventilator support, 10 (3%) required inotropes, and 9 (2%) developed cardiac arrest. The overall 24-h mortality was 28 (7%). The AUC of serum lactate level for overall 24-h mortality was 0.801 (95%CI, 0.7-0.9, P ≤ 0.001). At the optimal cutoff value (3.8 mmol/L), lactate level had a sensitivity and specificity for 24-h mortality of 64% and 85%, respectively. Mortality of the high-lactate level group (33.8 mmol/L) was significantly higher than that of the low-lactate level group (< 3.8 mmol/L), 23.8% vs. 2.9%, respectively (95%CI 3.8-17.2, p < 0.001), with the relative risk of mortality in the high-lactate level group being 8.1 times higher compared to the low-lactate level group.


The utility of lactate level in predicting mortality was similar to that seen in high-resource settings. A serum lactate level of 33.8 mmol/L predicted 24-h serious adverse events in unselected patients seen in the high-acuity area of our ED. Incorporating serum lactate level in ED in lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs) can help identify patients at risk of developing serious adverse events.

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