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Improving the understanding, detection, and management of kidney disease.

Estimate Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR)

Calculate estimated GFR (eGFR) from serum creatinine levels to assess kidney function.

Use of any serum creatinine-based estimate requires that kidney function be at a steady state. eGFR should be used with caution in acutely ill or hospitalized patients who may exhibit rapidly changing kidney function.

Adults: Use the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease (MDRD) Study equation.

Patients under the age of 18: Calculate eGFR using the Schwartz equation for patients under age 18.

Caution: It is important to know the method used to measure creatinine in a blood, serum, or plasma sample, as it will affect the formula for estimating GFR in children. Determine which calculator to use.

Reasons for Using the MDRD Study Equation to Estimate GFR

Because mild and moderate kidney injury is poorly inferred from serum creatinine alone, NKDEP strongly recommends the use of the MDRD Study equation to estimate GFR from serum creatinine in adults. NKDEP also encourages clinical laboratories to routinely estimate GFR and report the value when serum creatinine is measured for patients 18 and older, when appropriate and feasible.

GFR Limitations

Estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) calculated using the MDRD Study equation is an estimate of GFR, not the actual GFR. The MDRD Study equation was derived from a large population of patients with CKD and will generate an estimate of the mean GFR in a population of patients with the same age, gender, race, and serum creatinine. However, the actual GFRs of those individuals will be distributed around that eGFR. An analogous estimate would be the estimated date of confinement for a pregnant woman based on her last menstrual period. This is the best estimate of the delivery date but, in fact, only a small minority of women actually deliver on that date.

When Not to Use the MDRD Study Equation: Although the best available tool for estimating kidney function, eGFR derived from the MDRD Study equation may not be suitable for all populations. MDRD Study-based estimates of GFR, like all creatinine-based estimates of kidney function (e.g., Cockcroft-Gault, reciprocal of serum creatinine), are only useful when renal function is stable. Serum creatinine values obtained while kidney function is changing will not provide accurate estimates of kidney function.

Additionally, the equation is not recommended for use with:

Application of the equation to these patient groups may lead to errors in GFR estimation. GFR-estimating equations have poorer agreement with measured GFR for ill hospitalized patients and for people with near normal kidney function than for the patients in the MDRD Study.

Page last updated: March 1, 2012