Incidence and outcomes of acute kidney injury in intensive care units: a Veterans Administration study

Crit Care Med. 2009 Sep;37(9):2552-8. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0b013e3181a5906f.


Objectives: : To examine the effect of severity of acute kidney injury or renal recovery on risk-adjusted mortality across different intensive care unit settings. Acute kidney injury in intensive care unit patients is associated with significant mortality.

Design: : Retrospective observational study.

Setting: : There were 325,395 of 617,927 consecutive admissions to all 191 Veterans Affairs ICUs across the country.

Patients: : Large national cohort of patients admitted to Veterans Affairs ICUs and who developed acute kidney injury during their intensive care unit stay.

Measurements and main results: : Outcome measures were hospital mortality, and length of stay. Acute kidney injury was defined as a 0.3-mg/dL increase in creatinine relative to intensive care unit admission and categorized into Stage I (0.3 mg/dL to <2 times increase), Stage II (> or =2 and <3 times increase), and Stage III (> or =3 times increase or dialysis requirement). Association of mortality and length of stay with acute kidney injury stages and renal recovery was examined. Overall, 22% (n = 71,486) of patients developed acute kidney injury (Stage I: 17.5%; Stage II: 2.4%; Stage III: 2%); 16.3% patients met acute kidney injury criteria within 48 hrs, with an additional 5.7% after 48 hrs of intensive care unit admission. Acute kidney injury frequency varied between 9% and 30% across intensive care unit admission diagnoses. After adjusting for severity of illness in a model that included urea and creatinine on admission, odds of death increased with increasing severity of acute kidney injury. Stage I odds ratio = 2.2 (95% confidence interval, 2.17-2.30); Stage II odds ratio = 6.1 (95% confidence interval, 5.74, 6.44); and Stage III odds ratio = 8.6 (95% confidence interval, 8.07-9.15). Acute kidney injury patients with sustained elevation of creatinine experienced higher mortality risk than those who recovered.

Interventions: : None.

Conclusions: : Admission diagnosis and severity of illness influence frequency and severity of acute kidney injury. Small elevations in creatinine in the intensive care unit are associated with increased risk-adjusted mortality across all intensive care unit settings, whereas renal recovery was associated with a protective effect. Strategies to prevent even mild acute kidney injury or promote renal recovery may improve survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / epidemiology*
  • Acute Kidney Injury / mortality
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs