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The evaluation of patients with abdominal discomfort is challenging and patient selection for endoscopy based on symptoms is not reliable. We evaluated the diagnostic value of fecal calprotectin in patients with abdominal discomfort.
In an observational study, 575 consecutive patients with abdominal discomfort referred for endoscopy to the Department of Gastroenterology & Hepatology at the University Hospital Basel in Switzerland, were enrolled in the study. Calprotectin was measured in stool samples collected within 24 hours before the investigation using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The presence of a clinically significant finding in the gastrointestinal tract was the primary endpoint of the study. Final diagnoses were adjudicated blinded to calprotectin values.
Median calprotectin levels were higher in patients with significant findings (N = 212, median 97 μg/g, IQR 43-185) than in patients without (N = 326, 10 μg/g, IQR 10-23, P < 0.001). The area under the receiver operating characteristics curve (AUC) to identify a significant finding was 0.877 (95% CI, 0.85-0.90). Using 50 μg/g as cut off yielded a sensitivity of 73% and a specificity of 93% with good positive and negative likelihood ratios (10.8 and 0.29, respectively). Fecal calprotectin was useful as a diagnostic parameter both for findings in the upper intestinal tract (AUC 0.730, 0.66-0.79) and for the colon (AUC 0.912, 0.88-0.94) with higher diagnostic precision for the latter (P < 0.001). In patients > 50 years, the diagnostic precision remained unchanged (AUC 0.889 vs. 0.832, P = 0.165).
In patients with abdominal discomfort, fecal calprotectin is a useful non-invasive marker to identify clinically significant findings of the gastrointestinal tract, irrespective of age.