Estimating equations for glomerular filtration rate in the era of creatinine standardization: a systematic review

Ann Intern Med. 2012 Jun 5;156(11):785-95. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-156-6-201203200-00391. Epub 2012 Feb 6.


Background: Clinical laboratories are increasingly reporting estimated glomerular filtration rate (GFR) by using serum creatinine assays traceable to a standard reference material.

Purpose: To review the performance of GFR estimating equations to inform the selection of a single equation by laboratories and the interpretation of estimated GFR by clinicians.

Data sources: A systematic search of MEDLINE, without language restriction, between 1999 and 21 October 2011.

Study selection: Cross-sectional studies in adults that compared the performance of 2 or more creatinine-based GFR estimating equations with a reference GFR measurement. Eligible equations were derived or reexpressed and validated by using creatinine measurements traceable to the standard reference material.

Data extraction: Reviewers extracted data on study population characteristics, measured GFR, creatinine assay, and equation performance.

Data synthesis: Eligible studies compared the MDRD (Modification of Diet in Renal Disease) Study and CKD-EPI (Chronic Kidney Disease Epidemiology Collaboration) equations or modifications thereof. In 12 studies in North America, Europe, and Australia, the CKD-EPI equation performed better at higher GFRs (approximately >60 mL/min per 1.73 m(2)) and the MDRD Study equation performed better at lower GFRs. In 5 of 8 studies in Asia and Africa, the equations were modified to improve their performance by adding a coefficient derived in the local population or removing a coefficient.

Limitation: Methods of GFR measurement and study populations were heterogeneous.

Conclusion: Neither the CKD-EPI nor the MDRD Study equation is optimal for all populations and GFR ranges. Using a single equation for reporting requires a tradeoff to optimize performance at either higher or lower GFR ranges. A general practice and public health perspective favors the CKD-EPI equation.

Primary funding source: Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Creatinine / blood*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Europe
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate*
  • Humans
  • Mathematics
  • North America
  • Reference Standards


  • Biomarkers
  • Creatinine