New Lab Test Predicts Risk after Surgery

The test, which measures a biomarker called "neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin" (NGAL), may permit earlier treatment, giving a chance to prevent or improve outcomes of postoperative AKI. Dr. Prasad Devarajan of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and colleagues measured NGAL in urine samples from 196 children undergoing cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) during surgery to repair congenital heart defects. Cardiopulmonary bypass is a major risk factor for AKI, a serious complication that can cause death or permanent loss of kidney function. Fifty-one percent of the children in the study developed AKI. This diagnosis was based on increased levels of the breakdown product creatinine, which did not occur until two or three days after CPB.

In contrast, urine NGAL levels began to increase within a few hours in children who developed AKI. For this group, NGAL increased 15 times higher than normal within two hours after CPB, and 25 times higher by four hours. Increases in urine NGAL were highly accurate in predicting risk of AKI. The NGAL level at two hours identified 90 percent of children who later developed AKI. Urine NGAL also predicted the severity of AKI—children with higher NGAL levels were at higher risk of death, were more likely to require dialysis, and had a longer time to recovery of kidney function.

An important part of the study was the incorporation of urine NGAL measurement into a standard system for monitoring patients during surgery. Previous studies had linked NGAL levels to AKI risk, but the NGAL test used was not practical for routine clinical use. The standardized laboratory platform for measuring NGAL levels in this study requires only a few drops of urine and provides results in 35 minutes.

The new test could be a major advance in identifying patients at risk of developing AKI after surgery or trauma, and in other situations commonly seen in critically ill patients.; Source: American Society of Nephrology (ASN)