The Kidney Failure Risk Equation for prediction of end stage renal disease in UK primary care: An external validation and clinical impact projection cohort study

PLoS Med. 2019 Nov 6;16(11):e1002955. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002955. eCollection 2019 Nov.


Background: The Kidney Failure Risk Equation (KFRE) uses the 4 variables of age, sex, urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (ACR), and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) in individuals with chronic kidney disease (CKD) to predict the risk of end stage renal disease (ESRD), i.e., the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant, within 2 and 5 years. Currently, national guideline writers in the UK and other countries are evaluating the role of the KFRE in renal referrals from primary care to secondary care, but the KFRE has had limited external validation in primary care. The study's objectives were therefore to externally validate the KFRE's prediction of ESRD events in primary care, perform model recalibration if necessary, and assess its projected impact on referral rates to secondary care renal services.

Methods and findings: Individuals with 2 or more Chronic Kidney Disease Epidemiology Collaboration (CKD-EPI) eGFR values < 60 ml/min/1.73 m2 more than 90 days apart and a urine ACR or protein-to-creatinine ratio measurement between 1 December 2004 and 1 November 2016 were included in the cohort. The cohort included 35,539 (5.6%) individuals (57.5% female, mean age 75.9 years, median CKD-EPI eGFR 51 ml/min/1.73 m2, median ACR 3.2 mg/mmol) from a total adult practice population of 630,504. Overall, 176 (0.50%) and 429 (1.21%) ESRD events occurred within 2 and 5 years, respectively. Median length of follow-up was 4.7 years (IQR 2.8 to 6.6). Model discrimination was excellent for both 2-year (C-statistic 0.932, 95% CI 0.909 to 0.954) and 5-year (C-statistic 0.924, 95% 0.909 to 0.938) ESRD prediction. The KFRE overpredicted risk in lower (<20%) risk groups. Reducing the model's baseline risk improved calibration for both 2- and 5-year risk for lower risk groups, but led to some underprediction of risk in higher risk groups. Compared to current criteria, using referral criteria based on a KFRE-calculated 5-year ESRD risk of ≥5% and/or an ACR of ≥70 mg/mmol reduced the number of individuals eligible for referral who did not develop ESRD, increased the likelihood of referral eligibility in those who did develop ESRD, and referred the latter at a younger age and with a higher eGFR. The main limitation of the current study is that the cohort is from one region of the UK and therefore may not be representative of primary care CKD care in other countries.

Conclusions: In this cohort, the recalibrated KFRE accurately predicted the risk of ESRD at 2 and 5 years in primary care. Its introduction into primary care for referrals to secondary care renal services may lead to a reduction in unnecessary referrals, and earlier referrals in those who go on to develop ESRD. However, further validation studies in more diverse cohorts of the clinical impact projections and suggested referral criteria are required before the latter can be clinically implemented.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Albuminuria / urine
  • Algorithms
  • Cohort Studies
  • Creatinine / urine
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / etiology*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / mortality
  • Kidney Function Tests
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care
  • Prognosis
  • Renal Insufficiency / mortality
  • Renal Insufficiency / physiopathology
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Creatinine