Internal and Emergency Medicine

, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 901–906 | Cite as

Lactate determination in pleural and abdominal effusions: a quick diagnostic marker of exudate—a pilot study

  • Giovanni PortaEmail author
  • Fabio G. Numis
  • Valerio Rosato
  • Antonio Pagano
  • Mario Masarone
  • Giorgio Bosso
  • Claudia Serra
  • Luca Rinaldi
  • Maria C. Fascione
  • Annalisa Amelia
  • Fiorella Paladino
  • Fernando Schiraldi


Pleural or abdominal effusions are frequent findings in ICU and Internal Medicine patients. Diagnostic gold standard to distinguish between transudate and exudate is represented by “Light’s Criteria,” but, unfortunately, the chemical–physical examination for their calculation is not a rapid test. Pursuing an acid–base assessment of the fluid by a blood-gas analyzer, an increase of lactate beyond the normal serum range is reported in the exudative effusions. The advantages of this test are that it is a very fast bed-side test, executable directly by the physician. The aim of this study is to evaluate whether the increase in lactate in pleural and abdominal effusions might be used as a criterion for the differential diagnosis of the nature of the fluid. Sixty-nine patients with pleural or abdominal effusions and clinical indication for thoracentesis or paracentesis were enrolled. Acid–base assessment with lactate, total protein, and LDH dosage on the serum, and acid–base assessment with lactate, total protein, and LDH dosage, cytology, and bacterial culture on the fluid were performed to each patient. Fluid–blood lactate difference (ΔLacFB) and fluid–blood lactate ratio (LacFB ratio) were calculated. A statistical analysis was carried out for fluid lactate (LacF), ΔLacFB, and LacFB ratio, performing ROC curves to find the cut-off values with best sensitivity (Sn) and specificity (Sp) predicting an exudate diagnosis: LacF: cut-off value: 2.4 mmol/L; AU-ROC 0.854 95% CI 0.756–0.952; Sn 0.77; Sp 0.84. ΔLacFB: cut-off value: 0.95 mmol/L; Au-ROC 0.876 95% CI 0.785–0.966; Sn 0.80; Sp 0.92. LacFB ratio: cut-off value: 2 mmol/L; Au-ROC 0.730 95% CI 0.609–0.851; Sn 0.74; Sp 0.65. Lactate dosage by blood-gas analyzer on pleural and abdominal effusions seems to be a promising tool to predict a diagnosis of exudate.


Lactate Delta lactate Lactate ratio Pleural effusion Abdominal effusion Light’s criteria Exudate Transudate Diagnostic marker Thoracentesis Paracentesis Infection Sepsis Pneumonia Bacterial peritonitis 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical standards

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Written informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

11739_2017_1757_MOESM1_ESM.tif (1.8 mb)
Supplementary material 1: ROC curve of ΔpHFB (TIFF 1868 kb)
11739_2017_1757_MOESM2_ESM.doc (28 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 27 kb)
11739_2017_1757_MOESM3_ESM.docx (92 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 92 kb)


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Copyright information

© SIMI 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giovanni Porta
    • 1
    Email author
  • Fabio G. Numis
    • 2
  • Valerio Rosato
    • 3
  • Antonio Pagano
    • 1
  • Mario Masarone
    • 4
  • Giorgio Bosso
    • 1
  • Claudia Serra
    • 1
  • Luca Rinaldi
    • 3
  • Maria C. Fascione
    • 3
  • Annalisa Amelia
    • 3
  • Fiorella Paladino
    • 1
  • Fernando Schiraldi
    • 2
  1. 1.Emergency Department“A. Cardarelli” HospitalNaplesItaly
  2. 2.Emergency Department“San Paolo” HospitalNaplesItaly
  3. 3.Internal Medicine and Hepatology DepartmentSecond University of NaplesNaplesItaly
  4. 4.Internal Medicine and Hepatology UnitUniversity of SalernoBaronissiItaly

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