Tuberc Respir Dis > Volume 59(6); 2005 > Article
Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases 2005;59(6):625-630.
DOI:    Published online December 1, 2005.
TNF-alpha in the Pleural Fluid for the Differential Diagnosis of Tuberculous and Malignant Effusion.
Hye Jin Kim, Kyeong Cheol Shin, Jae Woong Lee, Kyu Jin Kim, Yeong Hoon Hong, Jin Hong Chung, Kwan Ho Lee
Department of Internal Medicine, College of Medicine, Yeungnam University, Deagu, Korea.
Determining the cause of an exudative pleural effusion is sometimes quite difficult, especially between malignant and tuberculous effusions. Twenty percent of effusions remain undiagnosed even after a complete diagnostic evaluation, including pleural biopsy. The activity of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), which is the one of proinflammatory cytokines, is increased in both infectious and malignant effusions. The aim of this study was to investigate the diagnostic efficiency of TNF-alpha activity in distinguishing tuberculous from malignant effusions. METHODS: 46 patients (13 with malignant pleural effusion, 33 with tuberculous pleural effusion) with exudative pleurisy were included. TNF-alpha concentrations were measured in the pleural fluid and serum samples using an enzyme- linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). In addition, TNF-alpha ratio (pleural fluid TNF-alpha : serum TNF-alpha) was calculated. RESULTS: TNF-alpha concentration and TNF-alpha ratio in the pleural fluid were significantly higher in the tuberculous effusions than in the malignant effusions (p<0.05). However, the serum levels of TNF-alpha in the malignant and tuberculous pleural effusions were similar (p>0.05). The cut off points for the pleural fluid TNF-alpha level and TNF-alpha ratio were found to be 136.4 pg/mL and 6.4, respectively. The sensitivity, specificity and area under the curve were 81%, 80% and 0.82 for the pleural fluid TNF-alpha level (p<0.005) and 76%, 70% and 0.72 for the TNF-alpha ratio (p<0.05). CONCLUSION: We conclude that pleural fluid TNF-alpha level and TNF-alpha ratio can distinguish a malignant pleural effusion from a tuberculous effusion, and can be additional markers in a differential diagnosis of tuberculous and malignant pleural effusion. The level of TNF-alpha in the pleural fluid could be a more efficient marker than the TNF-alpha ratio.
Key Words: Pleural effusion, Malignancy, Tuberculosis, Tumor factor

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