Plasma or serum creatinine is the most commonly used diagnostic marker for the estimation of glomerular filtration rate (GFR) in clinical routine. Due to substantial pre-analytical and analytical interferences and limitations, creatinine cannot be considered accurate. Besides, the diagnostic sensitivity to detect moderate GFR reduction is insufficient. Equations to estimate GFR based on serum creatinine have been introduced, which included anthropometric data to compensate for the limitations of creatinine. Most validated and applied are the MDRD and the Cockcroft-Gault equation for adults, and the Schwartz equation for children. These equations can be calculated at the bedside or issued by the laboratory and provide accurate GFR estimates from 20 to 60 mL/min/1.73 m(2) with good accuracy but moderate to poor bias and precision. Further limiting is the lack of creatinine reference methods and of calibration material. Lately, the low molecular weight protein cystatin C was introduced as a GFR estimate superior to creatinine. In particular, serum cystatin C is sensitive to detect mild GFR reduction between 60 and 90 mL/min/1.73 m(2). However, no reference method and no uniform calibration material exist for cystatin C either. Further limitations are the effect of thyroid dysfunction, of high glucocorticoid doses and potentially the presence of cardiovascular diseases on cystatin C levels. To evade these obstacles and to further improve GFR estimation, cystatin C-based equations have been proposed, which seem to be superior to creatinine-based ones. However, this issue requires further evaluation. We propose a panel of GFR markers to facilitate the detection of reduced GFR at various stages and in different populations; this however needs to be extended and refined in the near future. In principle, clinicians should be aware of the limitations of and cautioned not to overrate estimated GFR by single markers or calculated by equations and should not entirely rely on GFR estimates to make precise clinical decisions.