The nonspecificity of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. The defining characteristics of primary focal glomerulosclerosis, mesangial proliferation, and minimal change

Medicine (Baltimore). 1997 Jan;76(1):42-52. doi: 10.1097/00005792-199701000-00004.


We performed a detailed clinical review and pathologic analysis of the kidney biopsies of 134 children with nephrotic syndrome or asymptomatic proteinuria. This analysis challenges some of our concepts about the classification of conditions associated with these disorders. The presence of focal segmental sclerotic lesions does not define a unique disorder in childhood. Some children with such lesions will have unaffected glomeruli that are ultrastructurally completely normal. These patients, predominately black adolescents, present either with nephrotic syndrome or asymptomatic proteinuria. We classify this disorder as primary focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) and have never found it to recur after transplantation. Most other children with FSGS have 1 of 2 specific glomerulopathies. Those with minimal change have generalized fusion of podocyte foot processes. Those with mesangial proliferation have similar foot process changes combined with mesangial expansion and proliferation and, frequently, thinning of the lamina densa and tubuloreticular inclusions. The presence of segmental lesions in these glomerulopathies appears to be nothing more than a marker of severity. Children with these glomerulopathies are generally younger white children, virtually all of whom have nephrotic syndrome. These disorders have a strong propensity to recur after transplantation. The presence of mesangial labeling of IgM or C1q has no significance in any of these 3 disorders. The classification of disorders associated with nephrotic syndrome or asymptomatic proteinuria must concentrate less on the presence or absence of focal sclerosis and more on the histologic appearance of the rest of the glomeruli.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Biopsy
  • Blacks
  • Cell Division
  • Child
  • Complement C1q / analysis
  • Glomerular Mesangium / pathology
  • Glomerular Mesangium / ultrastructure
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranoproliferative / classification
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranoproliferative / pathology*
  • Glomerulosclerosis, Focal Segmental / classification
  • Glomerulosclerosis, Focal Segmental / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin M / analysis
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Kidney / ultrastructure
  • Kidney Glomerulus / pathology
  • Kidney Glomerulus / ultrastructure
  • Kidney Transplantation
  • Kidney Tubules / pathology
  • Kidney Tubules / ultrastructure
  • Nephrosis, Lipoid / classification
  • Nephrosis, Lipoid / pathology*
  • Nephrotic Syndrome / classification
  • Nephrotic Syndrome / pathology
  • Proteinuria / classification
  • Proteinuria / pathology
  • Recurrence
  • Whites


  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Complement C1q