Perioperative Acute Renal Injury: Revisiting Pathophysiology

Anesthesiology. 2024 Jul 1;141(1):151-158. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0000000000004993.


Background: Acute renal dysfunction and subsequent acute renal failure after cardiac surgery are associated with high mortality and morbidity. Early therapeutic or preventive intervention is hampered by the lack of an early biomarker for acute renal injury. Recent studies showed that urinary neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL or lipocalin 2) is upregulated early (within 1 to 3 h) after murine renal injury and in pediatric acute renal dysfunction after cardiac surgery. The authors hypothesized that postoperative urinary NGAL concentrations are increased in adult patients developing acute renal dysfunction after cardiac surgery compared with patients without acute renal dysfunction.

Methods: After institutional review board approval, 81 cardiac surgical patients were prospectively studied. Urine samples were collected immediately before incision and at various time intervals after surgery for NGAL analysis by quantitative immunoblotting. Acute renal dysfunction was defined as peak postoperative serum creatinine increase by 50% or greater compared with preoperative serum creatinine.

Results: Sixteen of 81 patients (20%) developed postoperative acute renal dysfunction, and the mean urinary NGAL concentrations in patients who developed acute renal dysfunction were significantly higher early after surgery (after 1 h, mean ± SD, 4,195 ± 6,520 vs. 1,068 ± 2,129 ng/ml; P < 0.01) compared with patients who did not develop acute renal dysfunction. Mean urinary NGAL concentrations continued to increase and remained significantly higher at 3 and 18 h after cardiac surgery in patients with acute renal dysfunction. In contrast, urinary NGAL in patients without acute renal dysfunction decreased rapidly after cardiac surgery.

Conclusions: Patients developing postoperative acute renal dysfunction had significantly higher urinary NGAL concentrations early after cardiac surgery. Urinary NGAL may therefore be a useful early biomarker of acute renal dysfunction after cardiac surgery. These findings may facilitate the early detection of acute renal injury and potentially prevent progression to acute renal failure.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury* / diagnosis
  • Acute Kidney Injury* / etiology
  • Acute Kidney Injury* / physiopathology
  • Acute Kidney Injury* / urine
  • Acute-Phase Proteins* / urine
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers* / blood
  • Biomarkers* / urine
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures* / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipocalin-2* / blood
  • Lipocalin-2* / urine
  • Lipocalins* / urine
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications* / diagnosis
  • Postoperative Complications* / etiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / blood
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / urine


  • Lipocalin-2
  • LCN2 protein, human
  • Lipocalins
  • Acute-Phase Proteins
  • Biomarkers
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins