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Objective: The use of serum ammonia as a novel marker for sepsis compared to lactic acid levels in intensive care unit (ICU) patients.

Design and Interventions: Single arm, prospective clinical trial to collect arterial blood samples from patients with sepsis. Serial ammonia and lactic acid levels were sent every six hours for a total of three days.

Measurements and results: Compare mean levels of ammonia and lactic acid in terms of diagnosing sepsis and patient outcome, including length of stay and mortality. A total of 30 patients were enrolled in the pilot study. On admission, mean ammonia level was 35.7 μmol/L and lactic acid was 3.06 mmole/L. Ammonia levels checked at the end of day 2 (ammonia 2-4) and the beginning of day 3 (ammonia 3-1) were higher in patients who had a microbial culture-proven sepsis (p-values 0.029 and 0.002, respectively) compared to those without culture-positive sepsis. Ammonia levels did predict a longer hospital stay; ammonia level of more than 40 μmol/L had a mean hospital stay of 17.6 days vs. patients with normal levels who had a mean hospital stay of 9.62 days (p-value 0.0082).

Conclusion: Elevated ammonia level can be a novel biomarker for sepsis, comparable to conventional markers. Ammonia levels have a prognostic utility as elevated levels were associated with longer hospital stay.


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