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2018 Feb - Optimising the utility of pleural fluid adenosine deaminase for the diagnosis of adult tuberculous pleural effusion in Hong Kong

KC Chang, MSc, FHKAM (Medicine); MC Chan, MB, BS, MRCP (UK); WM Leung, MB, ChB, FHKAM (Medicine); FY Kong, MB, BS, FHKAM (Medicine); Chloe M Mak, MD, FHKAM (Pathology); Sammy PL Chen, MRes(Med), FHKAM (Pathology); WC Yu, FRCP, FHKAM (Medicine)

Hong Kong Med J 2018 Feb;24(1):38–47


Introduction: Pleural fluid adenosine deaminase level can be applied to rapidly detect tuberculous pleural effusion. We aimed to establish a local diagnostic cut-off value for pleural fluid adenosine deaminase to identify patients with tuberculous pleural effusion, and optimise its utility.


Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of consecutive adults with pleural fluid adenosine deaminase level measured by the Diazyme commercial kit during 1 January to 31 December 2011 in a cluster of public hospitals in Hong Kong. We considered its level alongside early (within 2 weeks) findings in pleural fluid and pleural biopsy, with and without applying Light’s criteria in multiple scenarios. For each scenario, we used the receiver operating characteristic curve to identify a diagnostic cut-off value for pleural fluid adenosine deaminase, and estimated its positive and negative predictive values.


Results: A total of 860 medical records were reviewed. Pleural effusion was caused by congestive heart failure, chronic renal failure, or hypoalbuminaemia caused by liver or kidney diseases in 246 (28.6%) patients, malignancy in 198 (23.0%), non-tuberculous infection in 168 (19.5%), tuberculous pleural effusion in 157 (18.3%), and miscellaneous causes in 91 (10.6%). All those with tuberculous pleural effusion had a pleural fluid adenosine deaminase level of ≤100 U/L. When analysis was restricted to 689 patients with pleural fluid adenosine deaminase level of ≤100 U/L and early negative findings for malignancy and non-tuberculous infection in pleural fluid, the positive predictive value was significantly increased and the negative predictive value non-significantly reduced. Using this approach, neither additionally restricting analysis to exudates by Light’s criteria nor adding closed pleural biopsy would further enhance predictive values. As such, the diagnostic cut-off value for pleural fluid adenosine deaminase is 26.5 U/L, with a sensitivity of 87.3%, specificity of 93.2%, positive predictive value of 79.2%, negative predictive value of 96.1%, and accuracy of 91.9%. Sex, age, and co-morbidity did not significantly affect prediction of tuberculous pleural effusion using the cut-off value.


Conclusion: We have established a diagnostic cut-off level for pleural fluid adenosine deaminase in the diagnosis of tuberculous pleural effusion by restricting analysis to a level of ≤100 U/L, and considering early pleural fluid findings for malignancy and non-tuberculous infection, but not Light's criteria.

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