Background: Multiple studies suggest that hypertension-induced end-stage renal disease (ESRD) is heritable. Identification of nephropathy susceptibility genes absolutely requires accurate phenotyping, but the clinical hypertensive nephrosclerosis (HN) phenotype is poorly characterized. We hypothesized that many patients with HN as the indicated cause of ESRD on the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) 2728 form, fail to satisfy stringent HN phenotyping criteria.
Methods: Since renal biopsy documentation of HN is uncommon, clinical parameters for HN phenotype were applied: family history of hypertension, left ventricular hypertrophy, proteinuria <0.5 g/day, and hypertension preceding renal dysfunction (Schlessinger et al., 1994) or urine protein:creatinine (prot:creat) ratio <2.0 and no evidence of other renal diseases (AASK Trial Group, 1997).
Results: ESRD patients (n=607, 73% African American, 25% Caucasian) were enrolled in a study to identify HN susceptibility genes. HN was the most common cause of ESRD according to HCFA 2728 forms (37% prevalence). Phenotyping of randomly selected patients with HN from the total cohort revealed that 4/100 subjects satisfied the Schlessinger criteria, and 28/91 African Americans met AASK criteria for HN. From these figures, the adjusted prevalence of HN was only 1.5-13.5%. Of patients that could not be phenotyped for HN, 14 were misdiagnosed, 14 had urine prot:creat >2.0, and insufficient data were available in the remainder. Four patients underwent renal biopsy, but histology from only one was consistent with HN. If the HN phenotype definitions are revised to exclude 'hypertension preceding renal dysfunction', or proteinuria limits, then 44/100 and 39/91 patients respectively satisfy clinical phenotyping parameters for HN.
Conclusions: (i) We provide the strongest evidence to date that HN is less frequent in an ESRD population than commonly assumed if strict clinical criteria are used; many patients clinically diagnosed with HN may have undetected, treatable renal disease from other causes; (ii) relaxing HN phenotype criteria may erroneously include patients with glomerular diseases and secondary hypertension; (iii) reliance on HCFA 2728 diagnoses will confound identification of HN susceptibility genes; (iv) to attain adequate statistical power for genotype analysis, rigorous HN phenotyping will require screening an extremely large number of patients, which can be reasonably accomplished only in a multi-centre trial design.