Markers warn of progressive kidney problems after heart surgery

Markers warn of progressive kidney problems after heart surgery
Blood and urine tests could help doctors protect patients' kidneys


  • Many patients who undergo heart surgery experience kidney complications.
  • Blood and urine markers can indicate which surgery patients with injured kidneys will experience worsening kidney function.
  • Testing for these markers soon after heart surgery could help protect patients' kidneys.

Washington, DC (March 1, 2012) — Blood and urine markers can indicate which patients with an abrupt kidney injury following heart surgery will experience progressive kidney problems, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society Nephrology (JASN). Testing for these markers soon after surgery could help doctors protect the health of patients' kidneys.

Acute kidney injury (AKI), an abrupt or rapid decline in kidney function, is an increasingly prevalent condition. Sometimes AKI arises following heart surgery because the kidneys are deprived of normal blood flow for extended periods of time during the procedure.

In most cases, AKI after heart surgery resolves quickly, but some cases worsen and can seriously affect patients' health and survival. Until now, doctors have not been able to determine which cases of AKI that develop after heart surgery will worsen.

To see if certain markers in the blood and urine might provide some clues, Chirag Parikh, MD, PhD (Yale University School of Medicine), Jay Koyner, MD (University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine), and their colleagues evaluated the blood and urine of 380 patients who developed AKI after heart surgery.

The investigators found that the presence of certain markers on the day that AKI is diagnosed can indicate structural injury to the kidneys that will likely cause patients to experience progressive problems. High urinary interleukin-18 and a measure called the albumin-to-creatinine ratio increased patients' risk of experiencing persistent AKI by approximately three-fold, while high blood levels of a protein called neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin increased their risk by more than seven-fold.

"Our multi-center study is the largest acute kidney injury biomarker study performed to date in adults, and it strengthens the new paradigm that assessing structural injury at the time of clinical diagnosis with urine or blood markers of kidney injury can yield important prognostic information," said Dr. Parikh. "Future studies can build on this work and use these markers to enroll patients who are at a high risk for AKI and its associated complications into clinical trials of promising therapies," he added.


Study co-authors include Amit Garg, MD, PhD, Heather Thiessen-Philbrook (University of Western Ontario); Steven Coca, DO, Kyaw Sint (Yale University); Uptal Patel, MD (Duke University); and Michael Shlipak, MD, MPH (University of California, San Francisco); for the TRIBE-AKI Consortium (

Disclosures: Dr. Edelstein and Dr. Parikh are named co-inventors on the IL-18 patent. Dr. Devarajan is the co-inventor on the NGAL patents. This research was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

The article, entitled "Biomarkers Predict Progression of Acute Kidney Injury following Cardiac Surgery," will appear online at on March 1, 2012, doi: 10.1681/ASN.2011090907.

The content of this article does not reflect the views or opinions of The American Society of Nephrology (ASN). Responsibility for the information and views expressed therein lies entirely with the author(s). ASN does not offer medical advice. All content in ASN publications is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, drug interactions, or adverse effects. This content should not be used during a medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Please consult your doctor or other qualified health care provider if you have any questions about a medical condition, or before taking any drug, changing your diet or commencing or discontinuing any course of treatment. Do not ignore or delay obtaining professional medical advice because of information accessed through ASN. Call 911 or your doctor for all medical emergencies.

Founded in 1966, and with more than 13,500 members, the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) leads the fight against kidney disease by educating health professionals, sharing new knowledge, advancing research, and advocating the highest quality care for patients.

Contact: Tracy Hampton
[email protected]
American Society of Nephrology