The spectrum of kidney biopsy findings in patients with morbid obesity

Kidney Int. 2019 Mar;95(3):647-654. doi: 10.1016/j.kint.2018.11.026. Epub 2019 Jan 31.


Morbid obesity, defined as body mass index (BMI) ≥40 kg/m2, affects approximately 8% of United States adults and is a recognized risk factor for chronic kidney disease (CKD). We present the first focused biopsy-based study exploring the range of kidney diseases in this population. Among 3263 native kidney biopsies interpreted at Columbia University in 2017, we identified 248 biopsies from morbidly obese patients. In this cohort with median age of 53.5 years, 56% were female and median BMI was 44.0 kg/m2. Diabetes and hypertension were present in 47% and 81% of patients, respectively. Median estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) was 30 ml/min/1.73 m2, and most patients had nephrotic range proteinuria. Obesity related glomerulopathy (ORG), defined as focal segmental glomerulosclerosis with glomerulomegaly or glomerulomegaly alone, was detected in 73 patients, including 29 with ORG alone and 44 with ORG plus another kidney disease. In contrast, 167 patients had other kidney diseases alone, without ORG, most commonly (in descending order) diabetic nephropathy, acute tubular necrosis, hypertensive nephrosclerosis, IgA nephropathy, membranous nephropathy, and lupus nephritis. In 49% of patients, kidney biopsy yielded a diagnosis predicted to change patient management. The strongest predictor of non-ORG lesions was eGFR <30 ml/min per 1.73 m2, and presentation with nephrotic syndrome or acute kidney injury (with or without background CKD) was more common in non-ORG than ORG. The findings reveal an unexpectedly broad spectrum of kidney pathology beyond metabolic syndrome-associated disorders and highlight the importance of kidney biopsy to guide management and prognosis in the morbidly obese population.

Keywords: chronic kidney disease; focal segmental glomerulosclerosis; kidney biopsy; obesity; proteinuria.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biopsy
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Humans
  • Kidney / pathology*
  • Kidney / physiopathology
  • Kidney Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Kidney Diseases / etiology
  • Kidney Diseases / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity, Morbid / complications*
  • Obesity, Morbid / physiopathology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors