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Tests for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Kidney that has begun to shutdownWhen a doctor suspects that one of their patients may have chronic kidney disease or renal impairment, they will have them referred to a nephrologist, which is a medical specialist in kidney disorders. There are currently a series of tests which are used to diagnose renal impairment or complete kidney failure.

(For more information, please see: Renal Impairment Signs & Symptoms and Renal Impairment Treatments)

Diagnostic Tests for Renal Impairment and CKD

The following list of diagnostic tests can be used to assess the current level of kidney function in a patient:

  • Urinalysis takes a measure of the wastes in urine, such as creatinine and protein. This will show how well the kidneys are properly disposing of waste materials from the bloodstream.
  • A blood test will be taken in order to see how much waste (including sodium, urea, and creatinine) is in the bloodstream. Excess levels of waste in the blood is a signal that the kidneys are not functioning at the level they normally should.
  • A kidney ultrasound utilizes sound waves to show the shape, size, and structural health of the patient’s kidneys.
  • Kidney biopsies are taken to discover and verify issues that could be manifesting in the kidney. Doctors can obtain this sample via a long needle that is inserted into the kidney through the skin of the back. Once the sample is extracted, it is sent to a lab for further testing.
  • Abdominal ultrasounds are used to determine the size of the kidneys. While healthy kidneys are about the size of a fist, a diseased kidney may have shrunk a bit. However, the size of the kidney could also increase if the patient has diabetic nephropathy or polycystic kidney disease.
  • Nuclear medicine MAG3 scans are used to measure the blood flow between the kidneys and to give an accurate assessment of the kidneys’ functioning ability.
  • Abdominal CT Scan
  • Abdominal MRI
  • Patients can also get a DMSA scan of the kidney radioactive imaging

If you have been diagnosed with renal impairment or CKD, then you will need to have the following routinely checked every couple of months in order to be sure that your condition is not getting worse:

  • Electrolytes
  • Sodium
  • Calcium
  • Cholesterol
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Albumin
  • Complete blood count (CBC)

Acute renal impairment can be reversed, but chronic kidney disease is permanent. Health care providers must be able to accurately distinguish between the two when conducting these diagnostic tests.

What Causes CKD?

Studies have shown that most patients who develop chronic kidney disease have some type of underlying medical condition or disease. This means that one of the most important aspects of treating chronic kidney disease is actually treating this underlying disorder. In fact, most cases of renal impairment can be linked to either diabetes or hypertension. Thus, if you can effectively treat these conditions, then you should be able to help control your kidney disease.

When the kidneys are no longer able to adequately filter out the excess waste and fluid from the body, these will begin to build up in the bloodstream. This can cause some other medical complications such as reduced level of vitamin D, lowered red blood cell production, and compromised bone health.

A patient that possesses a glomerular filtration rate (GFR) that is less than 60 mL/min/1.73 m2 for at least three months is considered to have developed chronic kidney disease, even when there is no apparent kidney damage present. A GFR at this level or lower basically means that the kidneys have lost at least 50 percent of their functional capabilities.