Creatinine 

Updated: Dec 10, 2014
  • Author: Gary L Horowitz, MD; Chief Editor: Eric B Staros, MD  more...
  • Print

Reference Range

Creatinine is critically important in assessing renal function because it has several interesting properties. In blood, it is a marker of glomerular filtration rate; in urine, it can remove the need for 24-hour collections for many analytes or be used as a quality assurance tool to assess the accuracy of a 24-hour collection.

The reference ranges for serum creatinine and urine creatinine are listed below.

Serum creatinine

See the list below:

  • Adult males: 0.5–1.2 mg/dL*
  • Adult females: 0.4 – 1.1 mg/dL*
  • Children (up to 12 years of age): 0.0–0.7 mg/dL

*The reference interval varies with race, ethnicity, and gender. As a result, one should look at the calculated eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate), as reported from the measured serum creatinine, to assess renal function. [1] The GFR can also be calculated from the creatinine clearance (see below).

Table 1. Glomerular Filtration Rate [2] (Open Table in a new window)

 



Age (Years)



 



Mean GFR



(mL/min/1.73 m2)



20-29 116
30-39 107
40-49 99
50-59 93
60-69 85
70+ 75

 

Urine creatinine  [3]

  • Adult males: 20-25 mg/kg/day (roughly 1575 mg/day for a 70-kg male)
  • Adult females: 15-20 mg/kg/day (roughly 1050 mg/day for a 60-kg female)

Note that urine creatinine concentrations (mg/dL) vary depending on water intake (hydration status) and, therefore, are not very meaningful by themselves.

Next:

Interpretation

Low serum creatinine values are rare; they almost always reflect low muscle mass. Theoretically, low values may also reflect increased glomerular filtration rates (GFRs). [4, 5, 6]

Serum creatinine increases with decreases in GFR (acute kidney injury or chronic kidney disease). [7, 8]

The increase in serum creatinine is relatively minor at the earliest stages of disease due to mathematical reasons (eg, a patient whose baseline creatinine is 0.6 would have to lose more than 50% of his GFR before the creatinine would increase to 1.3 and first be noted to be "abnormal" by most reference intervals). [3] Iinterindividual differences in muscle mass that are related to gender, age, and ethnicity (among other things) are the cause.

As a result, for adult patients (age 18 and over), along with every measured serum creatinine, most clinical labs now report an estimated GFR (eGFR). [2, 9] The eGFR accounts for some of these variables, and it can alert physicians to significant reductions in GFR even when the serum creatinine appears to be normal or only minimally elevated. For example, a white woman with a serum creatinine of 1.0 (a value within the traditional reference interval) has an eGFR of 59 mL/min/1.73 m2, a value consistent with chronic kidney disease. [2]

However, note that the calculation is not valid in various situations (eg, pediatric patients, very elderly patients, pregnant individuals, extremes of body habitus, malnutrition, paraplegia, patients with skeletal muscle disease, those with rapidly changing kidney function).

In some of cases, more accurate information on the GFR can be obtained from a 24-hour creatinine clearance, which requires an accurate 24-hour urine collection and measurement of urine and serum creatinine.

All 24-hour urine collections should be assessed for accuracy/completeness by calculating the 24-hour total creatinine excretion. Typical values for men and women are listed in the Reference Range section.

Urine creatinine values can obviate the need for 24-hour collection when they're used to correct for hydration status for analytes excreted throughout the day in relatively consistent amounts (no diurnal variation). Urine protein/creatinine ratios and urine albumin/creatinine ratios have proved exceedingly helpful in the evaluation of proteinuria.

Previous
Next:

Collection and Panels

Serum creatinine

See the list below:

  • Specimen: Blood
  • Container: Red-top tube, serum separator tube, green-top tube
  • Collection method: Routine venipuncture

Urine creatinine

See the list below:

  • Specimen: Urine
  • Container: Use a plastic leakproof container (with no preservative). For a timed urine sample, a urine GUARD collection container is preferred.
  • Collection method: Empty the bladder, discard the voided sample, and note the start time for timed urine collections. For the specified time period, collect all urine voided; at the collection period's end, note the time and empty the bladder to add the last voided sample to the container. The refrigerated container should be brought to the laboratory.

Panels

Serum creatinine is typically part of the following panels:

  • Basic metabolic panel
  • Comprehensive metabolic panel
  • Creatinine clearance test

Urine creatinine is typically part of the following panels:

  • Microalbumin test
  • Urine protein test
  • Creatinine clearance test
Previous
Next:

Background

Description

Creatinine is critically important in assessing renal function because it has several interesting properties. In blood, it is a marker of glomerular filtration rate; in urine, it can remove the need for 24-hour collections for many analytes or be used as a quality assurance tool to assess the accuracy of a 24-hour collection.

Creatinine forms at a relatively constant rate in muscle. Chemically, it is the anhydride (dehydration product) of creatine; once formed, it cannot be converted back into creatine. Therefore, the amount of creatinine formed on a daily basis is related to muscle mass, which varies with ethnicity, age, and gender.

Creatinine is freely filtered through the glomerulus and is not appreciably reabsorbed or secreted by the renal tubules. (In advanced renal failure, secretion, although the absolute amount may be minor, may represent a significant fraction of total excretion.) As a result, the serum concentration of creatinine represents a balance between its production (related to muscle mass) and the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). For any given patient, the serum creatinine is constant, so long as muscle mass remains unchanging and GFR is constant. To summarize, the clearance of creatinine, unlike that of most analytes, is an excellent surrogate for GFR. [8]

Creatinine clearance formula. Creatinine clearance formula.

Put differently, if the GFR decreases and production (and daily excretion) remains constant, the serum concentration has to increase. (The serum concentration increases until the concentration is such that, when multiplied by the GFR, the product matches the daily excretion.) Thus, if one loses half of one’s renal function, the creatinine doubles; a creatinine increase from 1.0 to 2.0 represents the same decrement in renal function as a creatinine increase from 2.0 to 4.0 or 4.0 to 8.0, as reflected in the graph below.

The graph shows the relationship of the glomerular The graph shows the relationship of the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) to steady-state serum creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels. As shown in this figure, in early renal disease, substantial decline in GFR may lead to only a slight elevation in serum creatinine. Elevation in serum creatinine is apparent only when the GFR falls to about 70 mL/min.

Indications/applications

Because different individuals have different muscle masses, using a single reference interval can be misleading. A serum creatinine of 1.0 in a 50-year-old white woman represents a significantly reduced GFR; the same value in a 25-year-old black male represents a normal GFR.

Determining GFR accurately requires onerous methods (intravenous infusions, esoteric laboratory measurements [inulin], and/or radioactive compounds [125 I-iothalamate]). But a more practical way of determining the GFR has been the creatinine clearance, which requires a 24-hour urine collection, measurement of urine and serum creatinine, and use of the formula above.

In the absence of an indwelling catheter, the urine collection involves discarding the first morning urine and then collecting all urine for about the next 24 hours, up to and including the first morning urine the following day. All 24-hour urine collections should be assessed for accuracy and completeness by calculating the 24-hour total creatinine excretion; typical values are listed in the Reference Range section. If the patient includes 2 morning urines (overcollects) or misses one or more urine specimens (undercollects), this leads to an inaccurate GFR, which happens all too frequently.

In addition to reduced GFR, the other major form of CKD is proteinuria. Proteinuria is defined as more than 30 mg albumin per gram of creatinine in a random urine sample (24-hour collections are no longer needed or even suggested). [2] The reason that the urine albumin (or urine protein) concentration (mg/dL) cannot be used to assess the degree of proteinuria is that different individuals excrete different amounts of water depending on their fluid intake.

Historically, one addressed this limitation by collecting a 24-hour urine sample, allowing one to assess the 24-hour albumin (or protein) excretion. However, in any given spot urine sample, since the amount of water diluting the albumin (or protein) is the same as the amount of water diluting the creatinine, the ratio provides an accurate assessment of the degree of albuminuria (or proteinuria). Then, by applying the patient’s expected 24-hour creatinine excretion (related to muscle mass), one can estimate the 24-hour albumin (or protein) excretion. [10]

Considerations

In 2006, a landmark study illustrated that one could calculate a reasonably good estimate of the GFR by using the serum creatinine, age, gender, and ethnicity of the patient. [11] This equation was named the MDRD equation because it was based on a study called the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease. A recommendation was made and largely adopted that laboratories report an estimated GFR (eGFR) with every measured serum creatinine study. Although the eGFR has a few limitations, it works quite well, especially in detecting reduced GFR at early stages. eGFR has been promoted as a valuable tool in screening for CKD. [2, 9]

One of its limitations is that the eGFR calculation is not valid in various situations (eg, pediatric patients, very elderly patients, pregnant individuals, extremes of body habitus, malnutrition, paraplegia, patients with skeletal muscle disease, those with rapidly changing kidney function).

Despite the MDRD equation being used by most clinical laboratories for reporting eGFR in adults, several other equations for calculating GFR can be used, some of which should be mentioned here (eg, CKD EPI, Bedside Schwartz, and Cockcroft-Gault).

The MDRD equation was designed to detect reduced GFR, but it does not work well for values above 60 mL/min/1.73 m2, which is why labs typically report such values simply as ">60." Using the same set of variables as the MDRD equation, the CKD EPI formula claims a higher level of accuracy with higher (normal) GFRs. [12]

Again, the NKDEP recommendation is that estimated GFRs should be reported automatically for adults. When an estimation of GFR is needed for pediatric patients, the MDRD equation should not be used. Instead, the Bedside Schwartz equation, based on the patient's height and serum creatinine, is preferable. [2]

Last, although still in wide use, the Cockcroft-Gault equation has been deservedly superseded by the newer equations already mentioned, except for, notably, drug dosing. Because most drugs received FDA approval prior to the existence of the MDRD equation, their renal dosing guidelines are typically based on the Cockcroft-Gault equation. Although controversial, usually the differences in GFR generated by the 2 equations are insignificant. [13] When present, differences can often be ascribed to the fact that the assumptions underlying the Cockcroft-Gault equation have not been met, as follows:

  • Current creatinine methods are calibrated differently
  • Failure to use the patient’s "lean body mass"
Previous