Estimating kidney glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is of utmost importance in many clinical conditions. However, very few studies have evaluated the performance of GFR estimating equations over all ages and degrees of kidney impairment. We evaluated the reliability of two major equations for GFR estimation, the CKD-EPI and Schwartz equations, with urinary clearance of inulin as gold standard.
Methods and Findings
The study included 10,610 participants referred to the Renal and Metabolic Function Exploration Unit of Edouard Herriot Hospital (Lyon, France). GFR was measured by urinary inulin clearance (only first measurement kept for analysis) then estimated with isotope dilution mass spectrometry (IDMS)–traceable CKD-EPI and Schwartz equations. The participants’ ages ranged from 3 to 90 y, and the measured GFRs from 3 to 160 ml/min/1.73 m2. A linear mixed-effects model was used to model the bias (mean ratio of estimated GFR to measured GFR). Equation reliability was also assessed using precision (interquartile range [IQR] of the ratio) and accuracy (percentage of estimated GFRs within the 10% [P10] and 30% [P30] limits above and below the measured GFR). In the whole sample, the mean ratio with the CKD-EPI equation was significantly higher than that with the Schwartz equation (1.17 [95% CI 1.16; 1.18] versus 1.08 [95% CI 1.07; 1.09], p < 0.001, t-test). At GFR values of 60–89 ml/min/1.73 m2, the mean ratios with the Schwartz equation were closer to 1 than the mean ratios with the CKD-EPI equation whatever the age class (1.02 [95% CI 1.01; 1.03] versus 1.15 [95% CI 1.13; 1.16], p < 0.001, t-test). In young adults (18–40 y), the Schwartz equation had a better precision and was also more accurate than the CKD-EPI equation at GFR values under 60 ml/min/1.73 m2 (IQR: 0.32 [95% CI 0.28; 0.33] versus 0.40 [95% CI 0.36; 0.44]; P30: 81.4 [95% CI 78.1; 84.7] versus 63.8 [95% CI 59.7; 68.0]) and also at GFR values of 60–89 ml/min/1.73 m2. In all patients aged ≥65 y, the CKD-EPI equation performed better than the Schwartz equation (IQR: 0.33 [95% CI 0.31; 0.34] versus 0.40 [95% CI 0.38; 0.41]; P30: 77.6 [95% CI 75.7; 79.5] versus 67.5 [95% CI 65.4; 69.7], respectively). In children and adolescents (2–17 y), the Schwartz equation was superior to the CKD-EPI equation (IQR: 0.23 [95% CI 0.21; 0.24] versus 0.33 [95% CI 0.31; 0.34]; P30: 88.6 [95% CI 86.7; 90.4] versus 29.4 [95% CI 26.8; 32.0]). This study is limited by its retrospective design, single-center setting with few non-white patients, and small number of patients with severe chronic kidney disease.
The results from this study suggest that the Schwartz equation may be more reliable than the CKD-EPI equation for estimating GFR in children and adolescents and in adults with mild to moderate kidney impairment up to age 40 y.
In this retrospective cross-sectional study, Luciano da Silva Selistre and colleagues compare Schwartz and CDK-EPI equations for estimating glomerular filtration rate in patients of different ages and degrees of renal impairment.
Throughout life, our kidneys filter waste products (from food and from the normal breakdown of tissues) and excess water from our blood to make urine. If our kidneys stop working for any reason, the rate at which they filter the blood (the glomerular filtration rate, or GFR) decreases, and dangerous amounts of creatinine and other waste products build up in the blood. Kidneys can stop working suddenly, but in chronic kidney disease (CKD), a condition that affects more than 10% of the world’s population, kidney function declines gradually over many years. The symptoms of CKD, which rarely occur until the disease is very advanced, include tiredness, swollen feet, and frequent urination, especially at night. CKD cannot be cured, but its progression can be slowed by controlling high blood pressure and diabetes and by adopting a healthy lifestyle; the same interventions also reduce the chance of CKD developing in the first place.
Why Was This Study Done?
CKD is linked with an increased risk of end-stage renal (kidney) disease and cardiovascular disease. Early identification of CKD can prevent these life-threatening complications, so clinical practice guidelines have been proposed for the diagnosis and management of CKD in the general population. The assessment of GFR is central to these guidelines. GFR can be measured by infusing inulin, a compound that is eliminated from the body by glomerular filtration, into the blood and measuring its rate of appearance in the urine. However, in routine clinical practice, GFR is usually estimated from blood creatinine levels using a GFR estimating equation (creatinine levels vary considerably within and between individuals, so an equation is needed to convert measured creatinine levels into GFR estimates). Examples of creatinine-based GFR estimation equations include the Chronic Kidney Disease Epidemiology Collaboration (CKD-EPI) equation and the Schwartz equation, which were developed in middle-aged adults and children, respectively. Few studies have evaluated the performance of such equations over all ages and levels of kidney impairment, so here the researchers assess the reliability of the CKD-EPI and Schwartz equations for estimating GFR in children, adolescents, and adults.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In 10,610 individuals referred to a single French hospital because of suspected or established kidney disease or before kidney donation, the researchers compared GFR measured by inulin clearance with GFR estimated using the CKD-EPI and Schwartz equations. They evaluated the reliability of each equation by calculating the average (mean) ratio of estimated GFR to measured GFR (a ratio of 1 indicates that the equation yielded GFR values identical to those from the gold-standard inulin clearance test) and by assessing the precision and accuracy of the estimated GFR values: the precision of a measurement indicates its reproducibility and reliability; the accuracy of a measurement indicates its closeness to the true value of a quantity. Across all the participants, the mean ratio of estimated GFR to measured GFR with the Schwartz equation was nearer to 1 than the mean ratio for the CKD-EPI equation. Among participants of all ages with measured GFR values indicating mild loss of kidney function, the mean ratio obtained with Schwartz equation was also nearer to 1 than that obtained with the CKD-EPI equation. Among young adults (18–40 years old) with measured GFR values indicating mild to moderate loss of kidney function, the Schwartz equation had better precision and was more accurate than the CKD-EPI equation, but, in all patients aged ≥65 years, the CKD-EPI equation performed better than the Schwartz equation. Finally, in children and adolescents, the Schwartz equation performed better than the CKD-EPI equation.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Several aspects of this study (for example, its single-site setting and the low numbers of participants with severe CKD) may limit the accuracy and generalizability of its findings. However, these findings suggest that the Schwartz equation may be more reliable than the CKD-EPI equation for estimating GFR in children and adolescents and in adults up to 40 years old with mild to moderate kidney impairment. Up to now, there has been no consensus about when physicians should switch from using the Schwartz equation (which was developed in children) to using the CKD-EPI equation (which was developed in middle-aged adults) to estimate GFR in their patients. The findings of this study might therefore help physicians decide when to make this switch, thereby improving clinical decision-making and possibly helping to reduce the global burden of CKD.
This list of resources contains links that can be accessed when viewing the PDF on a device or via the online version of the article at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001979.
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information for patients on chronic kidney disease, including information on screening for and diagnosing CKD and some personal stories about the disease
The US National Kidney Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, provides information about chronic kidney disease and about the estimation of glomerular filtration rates (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provides links to information about all aspects of kidney disease and information on creatinine-based GFR estimation equations; the US National Kidney Disease Education Program provides resources to help improve the understanding, detection, and management of kidney disease (in English and Spanish)
World Kidney Day, a joint initiative of the International Society of Nephrology and the International Federation of Kidney Foundations, aims to raise awareness about kidneys and kidney disease
Clinical guidelines for the evaluation and management of CKD produced by the Kidney Disease Improving Global Outcomes not-for-profit foundation are available
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about kidney diseases