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Chronic Kidney Disease Diagnosis and ManagementA Review

Educational Objective
To review the diagnosis and management of chronic kidney disease (CKD).
1 Credit CME

Importance  Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the 16th leading cause of years of life lost worldwide. Appropriate screening, diagnosis, and management by primary care clinicians are necessary to prevent adverse CKD-associated outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, end-stage kidney disease, and death.

Observations  Defined as a persistent abnormality in kidney structure or function (eg, glomerular filtration rate [GFR] <60 mL/min/1.73 m2 or albuminuria ≥30 mg per 24 hours) for more than 3 months, CKD affects 8% to 16% of the population worldwide. In developed countries, CKD is most commonly attributed to diabetes and hypertension. However, less than 5% of patients with early CKD report awareness of their disease. Among individuals diagnosed as having CKD, staging and new risk assessment tools that incorporate GFR and albuminuria can help guide treatment, monitoring, and referral strategies. Optimal management of CKD includes cardiovascular risk reduction (eg, statins and blood pressure management), treatment of albuminuria (eg, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers), avoidance of potential nephrotoxins (eg, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and adjustments to drug dosing (eg, many antibiotics and oral hypoglycemic agents). Patients also require monitoring for complications of CKD, such as hyperkalemia, metabolic acidosis, hyperphosphatemia, vitamin D deficiency, secondary hyperparathyroidism, and anemia. Those at high risk of CKD progression (eg, estimated GFR <30 mL/min/1.73 m2, albuminuria ≥300 mg per 24 hours, or rapid decline in estimated GFR) should be promptly referred to a nephrologist.

Conclusions and Relevance  Diagnosis, staging, and appropriate referral of CKD by primary care clinicians are important in reducing the burden of CKD worldwide.

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CME Disclosure Statement: Unless noted, all individuals in control of content reported no relevant financial relationships. If applicable, all relevant financial relationships have been mitigated.

Article Information

Corresponding Author: Morgan E. Grams, MD, PhD, 2024 E Monument St, Baltimore, MD 21287 (

Accepted for Publication: September 3, 2019.

Author Contributions: Dr Grams had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Concept and design: All authors.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: Chen, Grams.

Drafting of the manuscript: Chen.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors.

Statistical analysis: Grams.

Administrative, technical, or material support: Chen, Knicely.

Supervision: Grams.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Chen reported receipt of grants from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and Yale University. Dr Grams reported receipt of grants from the NIDDK and the National Kidney Foundation and travel support from Dialysis Clinics Inc for an invited speakership at a directors’ meeting in May 2019. No other disclosures were reported.

Funding/Support: Dr Chen was supported by a Clinician Scientist Career Development Award from Johns Hopkins University and is supported by a George M. O’Brien Center for Kidney Research Pilot and Feasibility Grant from Yale University and award K08DK117068 from the National Institutes of Health/NIDDK. Dr Grams is supported by NIDDK grants DK1008803, DK100446, and DK115534.

Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The supporting institutions had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; or decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Additional Contributions: We thank Andrew S. Levey, MD, Tufts Medical Center, and Natalie Daya, MS, Johns Hopkins University, for helpful input on the manuscript (uncompensated).

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