Risk factors for acute kidney injury in older adults with critical illness: a retrospective cohort study

Am J Kidney Dis. 2015 Jun;65(6):860-9. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2014.10.018. Epub 2014 Dec 6.


Background: Risk for acute kidney injury (AKI) in older adults has not been evaluated systematically. We sought to delineate the determinants of risk for AKI in older compared with younger adults.

Study design: Retrospective analysis of patients hospitalized in July 2000 to September 2008.

Setting & participants: We identified all adult patients admitted to an intensive care unit (n=45,655) in a large tertiary-care university hospital system. We excluded patients receiving dialysis or a kidney transplant prior to hospital admission and patients with baseline creatinine levels ≥ 4mg/dL, liver transplantation, indeterminate AKI status, or unknown age, leaving 39,938 patients.

Predictor: We collected data for multiple susceptibilities and exposures, including age, sex, race, body mass, comorbid conditions, severity of illness, baseline kidney function, sepsis, and shock.

Outcomes: We defined AKI according to KDIGO (Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes) criteria. We examined susceptibilities and exposures across age strata for impact on the development of AKI.

Measurements: We calculated area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) for prediction of AKI across age groups.

Results: 25,230 (63.2%) patients were 55 years or older. Overall, 25,120 (62.9%) patients developed AKI (69.2% aged ≥55 years). Examples of risk factors for AKI in the oldest age category (≥75 years) were drugs (vancomycin, aminoglycosides, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories), history of hypertension (OR, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.02-1.25), and sepsis (OR, 2.12; 95% CI, 1.68-2.67). Fewer variables remained predictive of AKI as age increased and the model for older patients was less predictive (P<0.001). For the age categories 18 to 54, 55 to 64, 65 to 74, and 75 years or older, AUCs were 0.744 (95% CI, 0.735-0.752), 0.714 (95% CI, 0.702-0.726), 0.706 (95% CI, 0.693-0.718), and 0.673 (95% CI, 0.661-0.685), respectively.

Limitations: Analysis may not apply to non-intensive care unit patients.

Conclusions: The likelihood of developing AKI increases with age; however, the same variables are less predictive for AKI as age increases. Efforts to quantify risk for AKI may be more difficult in older adults.

Keywords: Acute kidney injury (AKI); age; chronic kidney disease (CKD); critical illness; elderly; intensive care unit (ICU); older; risk; risk prediction; susceptibilities and exposures.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / epidemiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aminoglycosides / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Area Under Curve
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Critical Illness / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology*
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • ROC Curve
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sepsis / epidemiology*
  • Vancomycin / therapeutic use
  • Young Adult


  • Aminoglycosides
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Vancomycin