A large number of circumstances are associated with reduced serum concentrations of transthyretin (TTR), or prealbumin. The most common of these is the acute phase response, which may be due to inflammation, malignancy, trauma, or many other disorders. Some studies have shown a decrease in hospital stay with nutritional therapy based on TTR concentrations, but many recent studies have shown that concentrations of albumin, transferrin, and transthyretin correlate with severity of the underlying disease rather than with anthropometric indicators of hypo- or malnutrition.
There are few if any conditions in which the concentration of this protein by itself is more helpful in diagnosis, prognosis, or follow up than are other clinical findings. In the majority of cases, the serum concentration of C-reactive protein is adequate for detection and monitoring of acute phase responses and for prognosis. Although over diagnosis and treatment of presumed protein energy malnutrition is probably not detrimental to most patients, the failure to detect other causes of decreased concentrations (such as serious bacterial infections or malignancy) of the so-called visceral or hepatic proteins could possibly result in increased morbidity or even mortality. In addition to these caveats, assays for TTR have a relatively high level of uncertainty (“imprecision”). Clinical evaluation – history and physical examination – should remain the mainstay of nutritional assessment.
Clin Chem Lab Med 2007;45:419–26.