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A novel diagnostic method for distinguishing parapneumonic effusion and empyema from other diseases by using the pleural lactate dehydrogenase to adenosine deaminase ratio and carcinoembryonic antigen levels.


Pleural effusions are a common medical problem not only for pulmonologists but also for general physicians, often needing thoracentesis for a definite diagnosis. However, thoracentesis cannot always reveal malignant cells or microbiological evidence.In this context, we prospectively enrolled a total of 289 patients with pleural effusions due to diverse etiologies: parapneumonic effusion (PPE) (63), empyema (22), tuberculous pleural effusion (TBPE) (54), malignant pleural effusion (MPE) (140), or chronic renal failure (CRF)/congestive heart failure (CHF) (10). The MPE group consisted of lung cancer (adenocarcinoma, n = 90; squamous cell carcinoma, n = 5; small cell carcinoma, n = 4), malignant lymphoma (n = 17), malignant mesothelioma (n = 11), malignant melanoma (n = 3), and metastasis from other organs (n = 10).This study demonstrated that the pleural lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)to adenosine deaminase (ADA) ratios differed significantly between patients with CHF/CRF, MPE, TBPE, empyema, and PPE. We discovered a simple method to differentiate pleural diseases based on the pleural LDH to ADA ratio and carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA). A pleural LDH to ADA ratio greater than 15.5 and a pleural CEA level of less than 5 ng/mL is indicative of PPE or empyema rather than TBPE, MPE, or transudative pleural effusion (CRF, CHF).This method has a sensitivity of 62.0%, a specificity of 91.0%, and an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.765 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0678-0.852, P < .001), odds ratio of 16.6 (95% CI: 7.28-37.8, P < .001), a positive likelihood ratio (LR) of 6.8, and a negative LR of 0.02.

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