Biochemical markers of acute intestinal ischemia: possibilities and limitations
Acute intestinal ischemia is a relative rare abdominal emergency, associated with considerably high morbidity and mortality rates. Although the conventional diagnostic approach to acute intestinal ischemia entails a preliminary evaluation of signs and symptoms, followed by radiological and laboratory investigations, a definitive diagnosis is can usually be made after laparotomy, which still remains the gold standard diagnostic (and therapeutic) procedure. Several potential laboratory biomarkers have been investigated over the past decades, but none of these seems to reach a suitable diagnostic accuracy for an early and reliable diagnosis of intestinal ischemia. The aim of this narrative review is to provide an overview on traditional laboratory tests for diagnosing acute intestinal ischemia (i.e., complete blood count, D-dimer, blood gas analysis, total lactic acid, C-reactive protein and procalcitonin), and summarize current evidence regarding some emerging and potentially useful biomarkers such as D-lactate, intestinal fatty acid-binding protein (I-FABP), ischemia modified albumin (IMA), α-glutathione S-transferase (α-GST), interleukin-6 (IL-6), citrulline and smooth muscle protein of 22 kDa (SM22). Among the various tests, D-lactate, IMA and I-FABP are perhaps the most promising, since they are characterized by optimal sensitivity and relatively good specificity, early kinetics, and can be measured with assays suited for a rapid diagnosis.