Biomarkers of renal injury and function: diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic implications in heart failure

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Heart failure guidelines suggest evaluating renal function as a routine work-up in every patient with heart failure. Specifically, it is advised to calculate glomerular filtration rate and determine blood urea nitrogen. The reason for this is that renal impairment and worsening renal function (WRF) are common in heart failure, and strongly associate with poor outcome. Renal function, however, consists of more than glomerular filtration alone, and includes tubulointerstitial damage and albuminuria. For each of these renal entities, different biomarkers exist that have been investigated in heart failure. Hypothetically, and in parallel to data in nephrology, these markers may aid in the diagnosis of renal dysfunction, or for risk stratification, or could help in therapeutic decision-making. However, as reviewed in the present manuscript, while these markers may carry prognostic information (although not always additive to established markers of renal function), their role in predicting WRF is limited at best. More importantly, none of these markers have been evaluated as a therapeutic target nor have their serial values been used to guide therapy. The evidence is most compelling for the oldest—serum creatinine (in combination with glomerular filtration rate)—but even for this biomarker, evidence to guide therapy to improve outcome is circumstantial at best. Although many new renal biomarkers have emerged at the horizon, they have only limited usefulness in clinical practice until thoroughly and prospectively studied. For now, routine measurement of (novel) renal biomarkers can help to determine cardiovascular risk, but there is no role for these biomarkers to change therapy to improve clinical outcome in heart failure.

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