How to use… serum creatinine, cystatin C and GFR

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Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is the best overall measure of kidney function. The GFR is relatively low at birth but increases through infancy and early childhood to reach adult levels of approximately 120 mL/min/1.73 m2 by age 2. While GFR can be measured most accurately by the urinary clearance of an exogenous ideal filtration marker such as inulin, it is more clinically useful to estimate GFR using a single serum measurement of an endogenous biomarker such as creatinine or cystatin C. When in steady state, there is an inverse relationship between creatinine/cystatin C and GFR, allowing GFR to be estimated from either using simple equations. Because of the non-linear relationship between creatinine/cystatin C and GFR, relatively small initial increases in these markers represent significant decreases in GFR. While cystatin C is produced by all nucleated cells, creatinine is a waste product of muscle metabolism and is therefore influenced by diet and muscle mass/body habitus. Decreased GFR is used to diagnose and stage chronic kidney disease (CKD) using the Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes system. A diagnosis of CKD requires GFR <60 mL/min/1.73 m2 for more than 3 months; higher GFR also represents CKD if evidence of kidney damage (such as albuminuria or abnormal imaging) is present. Changes in serum creatinine and urine output are used to diagnose acute kidney injury. It is possible to calculate a kinetic GFR when the creatinine is changing rapidly, though more complex calculations are required.

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