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National Institute of Diabetes and
Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

For Immediate Release
Friday, October 10, 2008


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Arthur Stone
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Larger Labs Report Kidney Function Routinely

Labs that conduct the highest number of routine blood tests are more likely than others to report estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), an important measure of kidney function that can identify early kidney disease, according to a survey funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The work is reported in the October issue of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases.

"We are encouraged to find that many labs are routinely reporting eGFR, allowing earlier diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease, " said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. "But the survey illustrates the need to continue NIH efforts to promote automatic reporting of eGFR by all labs so that more people can benefit from earlier diagnosis."

The survey found that more than 86 percent of the highest-volume independent labs (those in the top 5 percent) and more than 55 percent of all labs in the top quarter of high-volume labs report eGFR, in contrast to only 24 percent of low-volume labs (those in the bottom quarter). The survey demonstrates room for improvement in making eGFR readily available to primary care providers who could be treating early chronic kidney disease — primarily caused by diabetes and high blood pressure — and possibly reducing their patientsí risk for kidney failure, which results in the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant.

"Estimated GFR is an important measure of kidney function that can be easily calculated using serum creatinine and a patientís age, gender, and ethnicity," said Andrew Narva, M.D., director of NIDDKís National Kidney Disease Education Program (NKDEP). " Itís a good sign that the highest-volume labs are commonly reporting eGFR. We hope that lower-volume labs will follow their lead as increased reporting may result in earlier identification and treatment of chronic kidney disease." Serum creatinine is a waste product in the blood created by the normal breakdown of muscle cells during activity.

While eGFR reporting is high among high-volume labs, reporting is relatively low overall (38 percent), particularly by labs in physiciansí offices (26 percent) and low-volume independent labs (39 percent). On the positive side, the survey found that about 67 percent of labs that report eGFR do so routinely — without providers needing to ask for the result.

The survey also found that nearly 40 percent of labs are reporting eGFR values above the cutoff of 60 milliliters per minute per 1.73m2 (an estimate of body surface area used to calculate eGFR levels). "NKDEPís recommendation is to report such values as Ďgreater than or equal to 60í because the equation used to estimate GFR is less reliable and the creatinine result becomes more variable at lower concentrations," explained Greg Miller, Ph.D., chair of the NKDEPís Laboratory Working Group and author of an editorial in the same issue of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases. To learn more about guidelines for estimating and reporting GFR and its importance in detection and treatment of chronic kidney disease, visit the NKDEP website at www.nkdep.nih.gov.

NIDDK conducts and supports research in diabetes and other endocrine and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases, nutrition, and obesity; and kidney, urologic, and hematologic diseases. Spanning the full spectrum of medicine and afflicting people of all ages and ethnic groups, these diseases encompass some of the most common, severe, and disabling conditions affecting Americans. For more information about NIDDK and its programs, see www.niddk.nih.gov.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.


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