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Chronic kidney disease (CKD) encompasses a spectrum of different pathophysiologic processes associated with abnormal kidney function and a progressive decline in glomerular filtration rate (GFR). Figure 335-1 provides a recently updated classification, in which stages of CKD are stratified by both estimated GFR and the degree of albuminuria, in order to predict risk of progression of CKD. Previously, CKD had been staged solely by the GFR. However, the risk of worsening of kidney function is closely linked to the amount of albuminuria, and so it has been incorporated into the classification.

FIGURE 335-1

Kidney Disease Improving Global Outcome (KDIGO) classification of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Gradation of color from green to red corresponds to increasing risk and progression of CKD. GFR, glomerular filtration rate. (Reproduced with permission from Kidney Int Suppl 3:5-14, 2013.)

The pathophysiologic processes, adaptations, clinical presentations, assessment, and therapeutic interventions associated with CKD will be the focus of this chapter. The dispiriting term end-stage renal disease represents a stage of CKD where the accumulation of toxins, fluid, and electrolytes normally excreted by the kidneys results in the uremic syndrome. This syndrome leads to death unless the toxins are removed by renal replacement therapy, using dialysis or kidney transplantation. These interventions are discussed in Chaps. 336 and 337. End-stage renal disease will be supplanted in this chapter by the term stage 5 CKD.


The pathophysiology of CKD involves two broad sets of mechanisms of damage: (1) initiating mechanisms specific to the underlying etiology (e.g., genetically determined abnormalities in kidney development or integrity, immune complex deposition and inflammation in certain types of glomerulonephritis, or toxin exposure in certain diseases of the renal tubules and interstitium) and (2) a set of progressive mechanisms, involving hyperfiltration and hypertrophy of the remaining viable nephrons, that are a common consequence following long-term reduction of renal mass, irrespective of underlying etiology (Chap. 333e). The responses to reduction in nephron number are mediated by vasoactive hormones, cytokines, and growth factors. Eventually, these short-term adaptations of hypertrophy and hyperfiltration become maladaptive as the increased pressure and flow within the nephron predisposes to distortion of glomerular architecture, abnormal podocyte function, and disruption of the filtration barrier leading to sclerosis and dropout of the remaining nephrons (Fig. 335-2). Increased intrarenal activity of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) appears to contribute both to the initial adaptive hyperfiltration and to the subsequent maladaptive hypertrophy and sclerosis. This process explains why a reduction in renal mass from an isolated insult may lead to a progressive decline in renal function over many years (Fig. 335-3).

FIGURE 335-2

Left: Schema of the normal glomerular architecture. Right: Secondary glomerular changes associated with a reduction in nephron number, including enlargement of capillary lumens and ...

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