Normalization of urinary biomarkers to creatinine during changes in glomerular filtration rate

Kidney Int. 2010 Sep;78(5):486-94. doi: 10.1038/ki.2010.165. Epub 2010 Jun 16.


Urinary biomarkers, such as albumin and other markers of kidney injury, are frequently reported as a normalized ratio to urinary creatinine (UCr) concentration [UCr] to control for variations in urine flow rate. The implicit assumption is that UCr excretion is constant across and within individuals, such that changes in the ratio will reflect changes in biomarker excretion. Using computer simulations of creatinine kinetics, we found that normalized levels of a biomarker reflecting tubular injury can be influenced by dynamic changes in the UCr excretion rate when the glomerular filtration rate changes. Actual timed urine collections from hospitalized patients with changing glomerular filtration rates and/or critical illness exhibited variability in UCr excretion rates across and within individuals. Normalization by [UCr] may, therefore, result in an underestimation or overestimation of the biomarker excretion rate depending on the clinical context. Lower creatinine excretion in the setting of acute kidney injury or poor renal allograft function may amplify a tubular injury biomarker signal, thereby increasing its clinical utility. The variability of creatinine excretion, however, will complicate the determination of a threshold value for normalized biomarkers of acute or chronic kidney disease, including albumin. Thus, we suggest that the most accurate method to quantify biomarkers requires the collection of timed urine specimens to estimate the actual excretion rate, provided that the biomarker is stable over the period of collection. This ideal must be balanced, however, against practical considerations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / diagnosis*
  • Biomarkers
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Creatinine / urine*
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate
  • Specimen Handling


  • Biomarkers
  • Creatinine