Background: The rate of acceptance onto dialysis programmes has doubled in the past 10 years and is steadily increasing. Early detection and treatment of renal failure slows the rate of progression. Is it feasible to screen for patients who are at increased risk of developing renal failure? We have audited primary care records of patients aged 50-75 years who have either hypertension or diabetes, and are therefore considered to be at high risk of developing renal insufficiency. Our aim was to see whether patients had had their blood pressure measured and urine tested for protein within 12 months, and plasma creatinine measured within 24 months.
Methods: This was a retrospective study of case notes and computer records in 12 general practices from inner and greater London. A total of 16,855 patients were aged 50-75 years. From this age group, 2693 (15.5%) patients were identified as being either hypertensive or diabetic, or both.
Results: Of the 2561 records audited, 1359 (53.1%) contained a plasma creatinine measured within 24 months, and 11% of these (150) had a value > 125 micromol/l. This equates to a prevalence of renal insufficiency of > 110,000 patients per million in this group. Forty two patients (28%) had been referred to a nephrologist. Of records audited, 73% contained a blood pressure measurement and 29% contained a test for proteinuria within 12 months.
Conclusions: There is a high prevalence of chronic renal insufficiency in hypertensive and diabetic patients. It is feasible to detect renal insufficiency at a primary care level, but an effective system will require computerized databases that code for age, ethnicity, measurement of blood pressure and renal function, as well as diagnoses.