Background: Australian Aborigines are experiencing epidemic proportions of renal disease, marked by albuminuria and, variably, hematuria. They also have high rates of low birth weight, which have been associated with lower kidney volumes and higher blood pressures. The authors evaluated relationships between kidney volume, blood pressure, albuminuria, and hematuria in 1 homogeneous group.
Methods: Forty-three percent (672 of 1,560) of the population in a remote coastal Australian Aboriginal community aged 4.4 to 72.1 years participated in the study.
Results: Kidney size correlated closely with body size. Systolic blood pressure (SBP) was correlated inversely with kidney length and kidney volume, after adjusting for age, sex, and body surface area (BSA); a 1-cm increase in mean kidney length was associated with a 2.2-mm Hg decrease in SBP, and a 10-mL increase in mean kidney volume was associated with a 0.6-mm Hg decrease in SBP (P = 0.001). Mean kidney volume explained 10% of the variance in SBP in a multivariate model containing age, sex, and BSA. In addition to higher SBP, adults who had the lowest quartiles of kidney volume also had the highest levels of overt albuminuria (P = 0.044).
Conclusion: Smaller kidneys predispose to higher blood pressures and albuminuria in this population. The lower volumes possibly represent kidneys with reduced nephron numbers, which might be related to an adverse intrauterine environment. Susceptibility to renal disease could be a direct consequence of reduced nephron numbers; the higher blood pressures with which they are associated could also contribute to, as well as derive from, this association.