On the rationale of population screening for chronic kidney disease: a public health perspective

Public Health Rev. 2015 Nov 5;36:11. doi: 10.1186/s40985-015-0009-9. eCollection 2015.


Unlike opportunistic screening, population screening is accompanied by stringent quality control measures and careful programme monitoring. Sufficient evidence for benefit together with acceptable harms and costs to society are needed before launching a programme. A screening programme is a complex process organized at the population level involving multiple actors of the health care system that should ideally be supervised by public health authorities and evaluated by an independent and trustful body. Chronic kidney disease is defined by reduced glomerular filtration rate and/or presence of kidney damage for at least three months. Chronic kidney disease is divided into 5 stages with stages 1 to 3 being usually asymptomatic. Chronic kidney disease affects one in ten adults worldwide and its prevalence sharply increases with age. Kidney function is measured using serum creatinine-based, and/or cystatin C-based, equations. Markers of renal function show high intra-individual and inter-laboratory variabilities, highlighting the need for standardized procedures. There is also large inter-individual variability in age-related kidney function decline. Despite these limitations, chronic kidney disease, as currently defined, has been consistently associated with high cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and high risk of end-stage renal disease. Major modifiable risk factors for chronic kidney disease are diabetes, hypertension, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Several treatment options, ranging from antihypertensive and lipid-lowering treatments to dietary measures, reduce all-cause mortality and/or end-stage renal disease in patients with stages 1-3 chronic kidney disease. So far, no randomized controlled trial comparing outcomes with and without population screening for stages 1-3 chronic kidney disease has been published. Population screening for stages 1-3 chronic kidney disease is currently not recommended because of insufficient evidence for benefit. Given the current and future burden attributable to chronic kidney disease, randomized controlled trials exploring benefits and harms of population screening are clearly needed to prioritize resource allocations.

Keywords: Chronic kidney disease; Glomerular filtration rate; Screening programme; Urine analysis.

Publication types

  • Review