Elevated levels of serum creatinine: recommendations for management and referral

D C Mendelssohn, B J Barrett, L M Brownscombe, J Ethier, D E Greenberg, S D Kanani, A Levin, E B Toffelmire
Canadian Medical Association Journal: CMAJ 1999 August 24, 161 (4): 413-7

BACKGROUND: The potential benefits of earlier referral to a nephrologist of patients with elevated levels of serum creatinine include identifying and treating reversible causes of renal failure, slowing the rate of decline associated with progressive renal insufficiency, managing the coexisting conditions associated with chronic renal failure and facilitating efficient entry into dialysis programs for all patients who might benefit.

METHODS: A subcommittee of the Canadian Society of Nephrology, which included representatives from family practice and internal medicine, conducted a MEDLINE search for the period 1966 to 1998 using the key words referral and consultation, dialysis, hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, renal replacement therapy and kidney diseases. Where published evidence was lacking, conclusions were reached by consensus.

GUIDELINES: Earlier referral to nephrologists of patients with elevated creatinine levels is expected to lead to better health care outcomes and lower costs for both the patients and the health care system. All patients with newly discovered renal insufficiency (as evidenced by serum creatinine elevated to a level above the upper limit of the normal range of that laboratory, adjusted for age and height in children) must undergo investigations to determine the potential reversibility of disease, to evaluate the prognosis and to optimize planning of care. All patients with an established, progressive increase in serum creatinine level should be followed with a nephrologist. Adequate preparation for dialysis or transplantation (or both) requires at least 12 months of relatively frequent contact with a renal care team. Nephrologists should provide consultation in a timely manner for any patient with an elevated serum creatinine level. In addition, they should provide advice about what aspects of the condition require particularly urgent or emergency assessment.

SPONSORS: This clinical practice guideline has been endorsed by the Canadian Society of Nephrology and the College of Family Physicians of Canada. Meeting, teleconference and travel expenses of the Referral Guideline Subcommittee were covered by The Momentum Program, a collaboration between Baxter Corp. and Janssen-Ortho Inc. However, the authors are solely responsible for the editorial content of this article.

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