The evaluation of renal function and disease in patients with cirrhosis

Claire Francoz, Denis Glotz, Richard Moreau, François Durand
Journal of Hepatology 2010, 52 (4): 605-13
The MELD score has shown that, besides markers of liver function, serum creatinine has a strong prognostic value in cirrhosis. However, even though creatinine has a good prognostic value, it is an inaccurate marker of renal function in cirrhosis. Creatinine and creatinine-based equations tend to overestimate glomerular filtration rate (GFR), and creatinine clearance from timed urine collection also overestimates GFR. Hence, clearance of exogenous markers such as iohexol remains the only reliable method for assessing precisely GFR in cirrhosis. Whereas these investigations are limited by their costs and complexity, and they can hardly be repeated at short intervals, serum cystatin C could be an alternative, although it needs further validation. Accurate markers and/or specific equations are therefore still needed to assess GFR in cirrhotic patients. Pre-renal failure and hepatorenal syndrome (HRS) are the main causes of acute renal failure in cirrhosis. Both result from decreased renal blood flow and both can result in acute tubular necrosis. HRS is not always fully reversible with liver transplantation possibly due to underlying chronic kidney damage. A number of cirrhotic patients with acute renal failure may also have chronic kidney damage ("acute-on-chronic renal failure"); furthermore, cirrhotic patients frequently have co-morbidities such as diabetes that may result in chronic impairment in renal function. Since conventional urinary markers are biased in cirrhosis, a biopsy is the only way to document and quantify renal lesions; moreover, transvenous route should be preferred to percutaneous route. In candidates for transplantation, attention should therefore be focused on vascular lesions which may represent a risk factor for nephrotoxicities induced by calcineurin-inhibitors.

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