Nucleic acid amplification tests (polymerase chain reaction, ligase chain reaction) for the diagnosis of Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae in pediatric emergency medicine.Pediatr Emerg Care. 2005 Apr; 21(4):264-70; quiz 271-3.PE
Nucleic acid amplification tests, such as ligase chain reaction and polymerase chain reaction, offer potential advantages of speed, simplicity, and accuracy in the detection of genitourinary tract infection with Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis. Their appropriate use in pediatric emergency medicine depends on an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Problems arise in defining the sensitivity and, especially, specificity of these tests. The clinical scenario, the site of infection, the age and sex of the patient, and especially the presence or absence of medicolegal concerns strongly affect the applicability of these tests. The risk of false positives may be significant even when legal concerns do not arise and even if a highly specific test is used. This article reviews the uses and limitations of such tests in pediatric emergency medicine. Discussion is directed to both technical and practical considerations.