Physicians treating hospitalized patients for conditions unrelated to the kidneys should pay close attention to common blood and urine tests for kidney function in order to prevent incidental injury to the organs that help cleanse the body of toxins, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health-led research suggests.
The findings, published this month in two studies in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, suggest that while being older, male, African-American or having diabetes are risk factors for developing acute kidney injury, the strongest risk factor is even mildly abnormal results on tests of kidney function.
Acute kidney injury – a sudden loss of kidney function, which can develop as quickly as a few hours or over the span of a few days – occurs in up to 10 percent of hospitalized patients and up to 22 percent of intensive care unit patients worldwide. And its incidence has increased over the past two decades. Researchers say that this type of injury, which can lead to irreversible kidney damage, is often caused inadvertently during a patient’s medical care, either through the prescription of certain medications, the use of medical tests requiring iodine contrast or the effects of dehydration.
“Once a patient suffers an acute kidney injury, we have no effective treatment, so it is important to focus on prevention whenever possible,” says Dr. Morgan E. Grams, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School and a co-author on both of the studies. “Our research tells us that regardless of why someone is in a doctor’s care, that doctor needs to pay very close attention to these basic markers of kidney function.”