Purpose of review: This review discusses the current status of several biomarkers as potential diagnostic tools in patients with acute kidney disease.
Recent findings: Although the term "acute renal failure" has generally been used to describe acute kidney dysfunction that runs the spectrum from mild prerenal azotemia with no renal pathologic changes and no functional failure to severe oliguric renal dysfunction associated with tubular necrosis with failure of function, this spectrum is better described by the term "acute kidney injury." The mortality rate of hospitalized patients with severe acute kidney disease has not decreased significantly over the past 50 years despite advances in supportive care. The absence of sensitive and specific biomarkers for detecting injury early, grading the severity of the injury, and monitoring the response to therapy has impaired progress in the field and has had a very detrimental effect on the design and outcome of clinical trials in acute kidney disease. As a result of reliance on serum creatinine as a marker for injury and diagnosis, the institution of therapy is markedly delayed.
Summary: The search for new biomarkers for acute kidney injury is evolving rapidly with advancement in modern technologies. With better biomarkers we will have the ability to detect injury earlier, identify subclinical injury, provide prognostic information on the course of renal impairment, identify the nephron segments most affected, provide a rationale for segmentation of patients for clinical studies, guide timing of therapy, assess response to therapy, and screen patients at risk for renal injury.