BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES Epidemiological studies have shown that the burden of chronic kidney disease (CKD) is huge. CKD is a non-specific diagnosis, however, and it is hard to say which renal disorders comprise the body of CKD diagnosed on the strength of the combination of albuminuria and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) in epidemiological studies, or just how efficient such studies are in detecting chronic nephropathies. METHODS: The INCIPE study identified 524 CKD cases (using the K/DOQI definition based on albuminuria and eGFR) in a random sample of 4000 Italians >40 years old, 262 of whom were randomly chosen to be investigated in order to confirm their CKD and complete a diagnostic workup. We a priori defined diagnostic algorithms for 14 renal conditions based on personal family history, medical records, urine tests, kidney ultrasound with colour-Doppler and other tests. RESULTS: Among the subjects whose CKD was confirmed, a diagnosis of chronic nephropathy was reached in 68% of cases recognized as having either a specific (38%) or an undetermined (30%) kidney disease. Almost 50% of subjects with a specific chronic nephropathy had a diabetic or vascular renal disease. Abnormalities consistent with a chronic nephropathy were found in 50, 68, 70 and 100% of subjects with CKD Stages 1, 2, 3 and 4, respectively. Lone low eGFR and lone microalbuminuria were observed in 20 and 12%, respectively. CONCLUSION: In Caucasians >40 years old with a confirmed CKD condition, (i) an impressive 68% of subjects have an underlying chronic nephropathy, so eGFR and albuminuria are very efficient in detecting renal diseases; (ii) in 32%, the only disclosed renal abnormalities were a glomerular filtration rate <60 mL/min/1.73m(2) or microalbuminuria; follow-up studies are needed to clarify whether these abnormalities do really identify a chronic nephropathy or just a cardiovascular risk condition.
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