Background: Glomerulomegaly, the abnormal enlargement of glomeruli, has been related to an increased risk of glomerulosclerosis, but the degree of enlargement that constitutes glomerulomegaly has not been defined.
Methods: The principal stereological methods for estimating glomerular volume are  the disector/Cavalieri method that is considered the 'gold standard' for measuring individual glomerular volume (IV(glom)) and  the disector/fractionator technique that estimates average glomerular volume (V(glom)) together with total glomerular number (N(glom)) for the entire kidney. The two methods produce different estimates with V(glom) consistently exceeding IV(glom). This study compares glomerular volumes obtained by the two methods in autopsy kidneys of 39 African American and 34 US white adult males, and correlates the values with N(glom), body mass index (BMI), hypertension, glomerulosclerosis and race, factors known or thought to influence glomerular volume.
Results: For the smallest glomeruli, V(glom) was 25% larger than IV(glom) with the difference increasing to over 50% for kidneys with the largest glomeruli. Both V(glom) and IV(glom) showed significant inverse correlations with N(glom) and significant direct correlations with BMI and hypertension. African Americans had larger IV(glom) and V(glom) than whites, but only IV(glom) was significant. The 90th percentile for IV(glom) was 6.81 μm(3) × 10(6) and 13.10 μm(3) × 10(6) for V(glom), but larger glomerular size did not separate hypertensive from non-hypertensive subjects nor did it show any significant relationship to glomerulosclerosis. While V(glom) overestimated glomerular size compared with IV(glom), both measurements demonstrated similar relationships to factors influencing glomerular volume.
Conclusions: With neither method could glomerulomegaly, the abnormal enlargement of glomerular size predisposing to glomerulosclerosis, be determined.