Pediatric Nephrotic Syndrome 

Updated: Mar 04, 2020
Author: Jerome C Lane, MD; Chief Editor: Craig B Langman, MD 

Overview

Practice Essentials

Nephrotic syndrome, or nephrosis, is defined by the presence of nephrotic-range proteinuria, edema, hyperlipidemia, and hypoalbuminemia. Nephrotic-range proteinuria in a 24-hour urine collection is defined in adults as 3.5 g of protein or more per 24 hours, whereas in children it is defined as protein excretion of more than 40 mg/m2/hr to account for varying body sizes throughout childhood. In both adults and children, a first-morning urine protein/creatinine ratio of 2-3 mg/mg or more indicates nephrotic-range proteinuria.

Signs and symptoms

Pitting edema is the presenting symptom in about 95% of children with nephrotic syndrome. Edema is typically found in the lower extremities, face and periorbital regions, scrotum or labia, and abdomen (ascites). It is not uncommon for periorbital swelling to be mistaken for an allergic reaction by caretakers and primary care providers, until the progression of the edema or urine testing indicates a different origin.

Other signs and symptoms of nephrotic syndrome may include the following:

  • Viral respiratory tract infection: A history of a respiratory tract infection immediately preceding the onset of nephrotic syndrome is frequent on initial presentation and on subsequent relapses.

  • Allergy: Approximately 30% of children with nephrotic syndrome have a history of allergy.[1]

  • Microhematuria: Gross or macroscopic hematuria is rare and may indicate a complication such as infection or renal vein thrombosis.

  • Symptoms of infection: May include fever, lethargy, irritability, or abdominal pain due to sepsis or peritonitis.

  • Hypotension and signs of shock: Can be present in children presenting with sepsis.

  • Respiratory distress: Due to either massive ascites and thoracic compression or frank pulmonary edema and effusions, or both.

  • Seizure: Caused by cerebral thrombosis.

  • Anorexia

  • Abdominal discomfort, pain, and peritoneal signs: Resulting from spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, ascites, or bowel wall edema.

  • Diarrhea: Due to bowel wall edema or malabsorption.

  • Hypertension: Resulting from fluid overload or primary kidney disease (unusual in minimal change disease).

See Presentation for more detail.

Diagnosis

In order to establish the presence of nephrotic syndrome, laboratory tests should confirm (1) nephrotic-range proteinuria, (2) hypoalbuminemia, and (3) hyperlipidemia. Therefore, initial laboratory testing should include the following:

  • Urinalysis

  • Urine protein quantification (preferably first-morning urine protein/creatinine ratio)

  • Serum albumin measurement

  • Lipid panel

The following tests should be performed to determine whether the nephrotic syndrome is primary/idiopathic (INS) or secondary and—if INS has been determined—whether signs of chronic kidney disease or extra-renal disease exclude the possibility of minimal change nephrotic syndrome (MCNS):

  • Complete blood cell (CBC) count

  • Complete metabolic panel that includes serum electrolytes, calcium, phosphorus, albumin, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, aspartate aminotransferase (AST), and alanine aminotransferase (ALT)

  • Ionized calcium (because the total calcium level will be low in patients with hypoalbuminemia)

  • Testing for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

  • Testing for hepatitis B and C viruses

  • Complement studies (C3, C4)

  • Antinuclear antibody (ANA), anti–double-stranded DNA antibody (in selected patients)

Other tests and procedures in selected patients may include the following:

  • Genetic studies

  • Kidney ultrasonography

  • Chest radiography

  • Mantoux test

  • Kidney biopsy

See Workup for more detail.

Management

Corticosteroids

If kidney biopsy is not initially indicated, a trial of corticosteroids is the first step in the treatment of INS.

Diuretics and albumin

Loop diuretics, such as furosemide, are often used to reduce edema. Metolazone may be beneficial in combination with furosemide for resistant edema. Intravenous 25% albumin can be combined with diuretics and may be particularly useful in diuretic-resistant edema and in patients with significant ascites or scrotal, penile, or labial edema. Caution should be used when administering albumin—in addition to pulmonary edema, albumin infusion can result in acute kidney injury and allergic reaction.

Antihypertensive agents

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) can reduce hypertension and may also contribute to reducing proteinuria. However, because ACE inhibitors and ARBs can cause birth defects, adolescent women who are taking these agents must be counseled regarding the use of birth control, and pregnancy testing should be considered before starting these agents.

Calcium channel blockers and beta-blockers may also be used as first-line agents for hypertension.

Alkylating agents

Alkylating agents (eg, cyclophosphamide [CYP]) are most often used in children with suspected or biopsy-proven MCNS with frequent relapses. CYP offers the benefit of possible sustained remission, although with the possible risks of infertility and other adverse effects.

Calcineurin inhibitors

Calcineurin inhibitors (eg, cyclosporin A [CSA], tacrolimus [TAC]) are most often used in patients with INS due to focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), or patients with suspected or biopsy-proven MCNS with frequent relapses who fail to respond to or whose parents refuse other treatments (such as CYP).

Rituximab

Rituximab (a chimeric monoclonal antibody against CD20 that depletes B cells) has been used with increasing frequency in patients with suspected or biopsy-proven MCNS with frequent relapses who fail to respond to other treatments.

Home monitoring

Home monitoring of urine protein and fluid status is an important aspect of management. All patients and parents should be trained to monitor first-morning urine protein at home with urine test strips. Urine testing at home is also useful in monitoring the response (or the lack of a response) to corticosteroid treatment.

See Treatment and Medication for more detail.

Background

Pediatric nephrotic syndrome, also known as nephrosis, is defined by the presence of nephrotic-range proteinuria, edema, hyperlipidemia, and hypoalbuminemia. Nephrotic-range proteinuria in adults is characterized by protein excretion of 3.5 g or more per day. However, because of the great range of body sizes in children, the pediatric definition of nephrotic-range proteinuria is more cumbersome.

Nephrotic-range proteinuria in children is protein excretion of more than 40 mg/m2/hr. Because 24-hour urine collections are potentially unreliable and burdensome, especially in young children, many pediatric nephrologists instead rely on a single, first-morning urine sample to quantify protein excretion by the ratio of protein to creatinine.[2]

The use of a first-morning urine sample eliminates the contribution of potentially nonpathological orthostatic proteinuria, which might otherwise falsely elevate the protein level in a urine sample collected while a patient is active during the day. A urine protein/creatinine value of more than 2-3 mg/mg indicates nephrotic range proteinuria and correlates with results from 24-hour urine collection.

Nephrotic syndrome is a constellation of clinical findings that is the result of massive renal losses of protein. Thus, nephrotic syndrome is not a disease itself, but the manifestation of many different glomerular diseases. These diseases might be acute and transient, such as postinfectious glomerulonephritis, or chronic and progressive, such as focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). Still other diseases might be relapsing and remitting, such as minimal change nephrotic syndrome (MCNS).

The glomerular diseases that cause nephrotic syndrome generally can be divided into primary and secondary etiologies. Primary nephrotic syndrome, also known as idiopathic nephrotic syndrome (INS), is associated with glomerular diseases intrinsic to the kidney and not related to systemic causes. The subcategories of INS are based on histological descriptions, but clinical-pathological correlations have been made.

A wide variety of glomerular lesions can be seen in INS. These lesions include MCNS, FSGS, membranous nephropathy (MN), membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN), C3 glomerulonephritis (C3GN), IgA nephropathy, and diffuse mesangial proliferation.

By definition, secondary nephrotic syndrome refers to an etiology extrinsic to the kidney. Among the many secondary causes of nephrotic syndrome are the following:

  • Autoimmune and vasculitic diseases, such as Henoch-Schönlein purpura (HSP), systemic lupus erythematosus, and antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)–associated vasculitis.

  • Infectious diseases, such as congenital syphilis, malaria, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, and hepatitis B and C.

  • Malignancy.

  • Environmental and drug exposure, such as heroin and mercury.

  • Systemic diseases such as diabetes mellitus.

Genetic abnormalities may cause nephrotic syndrome (NS). Congenital NS (presenting before age 3 mo) and infantile NS (presenting at age 4-12 mo) have been associated with defects in the nephrin gene (NPHS1), phospholipase C epsilon 1 gene (PLCE1), and the Wilms tumor suppressor gene (WT1). Mutations in the podocin gene (NPHS2) are associated with a familial, autosomal-recessive form of FSGS. Mutations in the α-actinin-4 gene (ACTN4) and the gene TRPC6 are associated with autosomal-dominant forms of familial FSGS.

More than 39 genes have been associated with nephrotic syndrome, and approximately 30% of children with steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome may be found to have a single-gene cause of their disease.[3] Additionally, other genetic syndromes have been associated with nephrotic syndrome, such as nail-patella syndrome, Pierson syndrome, and Schimke immuno-osseous dysplasia.

INS is divided into steroid-sensitive (SSNS) and steroid-resistant nephrotic syndromes (SRNS) because a response to steroids has a high correlation with histologic subtype and prognosis. The landmark study of nephrotic syndrome in children, the International Study of Kidney Disease in Children (ISKDC), found that the vast majority of preadolescent children with INS had MCNS on kidney biopsy.[4, 5] Whereas 90% of children with MCNS responded to corticosteroid treatment with remission of their nephrotic syndrome, only 20% of children with FSGS responded to steroids.

This article focuses on primary (idiopathic) childhood nephrotic syndrome. The discussion of congenital and secondary nephrotic syndrome is beyond the scope of this article.

Pathophysiology

Proteinuria and hypoalbuminemia

Immune system

The hallmark of idiopathic nephrotic syndrome (INS) is massive proteinuria, leading to decreased circulating albumin levels. The initiating event that produces proteinuria remains unknown. However, strong evidence suggests that INS, at least in part, has an immune pathogenesis.

The effect of glucocorticoids on inducing remission in INS implicates the immune system, and particularly T lymphocytes, in the pathogenesis of the condition. Glucocorticoids, primarily acting through the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) transcription pathway, have a variety of effects, including inhibiting cytokine production and inhibiting T-cell production and proliferation.

A variety of studies provide further evidence of the role of T cells in INS.[6] Patients with INS in remission have alterations in the NF-κB pathway compared with healthy control subjects. NF-κB transcription is up-regulated in relapse of INS compared with remission. Additionally, nephrotic syndrome has been reported in patients with Hodgkin lymphoma, a T-cell disease. Other observations in INS include altered thymic regulation of T-cell differentiation and alterations in T-cell subsets in INS patients compared with healthy controls.

In addition to T cells, the reports of remission in INS after treatment with rituximab, an anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody that results in complete depletion of B lymphocytes, implicate a role for B cells in the pathogenesis of INS.[7, 8, 9, 10, 11]

A circulating factor may play a role in the development of proteinuria in INS. This role can be demonstrated by the rapid development of proteinuria in the recurrence of nephrotic syndrome after kidney transplantation, the improvement in nephrotic syndrome in such patients after treatment with plasmapheresis, and the experimental induction of proteinuria in animals by plasma from patients with INS.[12]

The nature of this circulating factor is not known. Various cytokines and molecules have been implicated, including the following[13] :

  • Interleukin (IL)-2, IL-4, IL-12, IL-13, IL-15, IL-18

  • IL-2 receptor

  • Interferon-γ

  • Tumor growth factor (TGF)-β

  • Vascular permeability factor

  • NF-κB

  • Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α

Wei et al reported an association between circulating levels of soluble urokinase receptor (suPAR) and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) in children and adults.[14, 15] Treatment of FSGS with immunosuppressive medications led to lower levels of suPAR, and a decline in suPAR levels over 26 weeks of treatment was associated with a reduction in proteinuria. Thus, suPAR might affect glomerular permeability.[14] However, subsequent studies have yielded conflicting data regarding suPAR, and the role of suPAR in the pathogenesis of FSGS and other glomerular diseases remains unclear.[16, 17]

The association of allergic responses with nephrotic syndrome also illustrates the role of the immune system in INS. Nephrotic syndrome has occurred after allergic reactions to bee stings, fungi, poison ivy, ragweed, house dust, jellyfish stings, and cat fur. Food allergy might play a role in relapses of INS; a reduced-antigenic diet was associated with improved proteinuria and complete remission in one study.[18, 19]

Additionally, INS is 3-4 times more likely in children with human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DR7. Steroid-sensitive INS has also been associated with HLA-B8 and the DQB1 gene of HLA-DQW2. A greater incidence of INS is also observed in children with atopy and HLA-B12.[20]

Podocyte biology and genetics

Perhaps the most exciting developments in understanding the pathophysiology of nephrotic syndrome have occurred in the area of podocyte biology. 

The glomerular filtration barrier consists of the fenestrated capillary endothelium, the extracellular basement membrane, and the intercalated podocyte foot processes, connected by 35-45 nm slit diaphragms. Nephrotic syndrome is associated with the biopsy finding of fusion (effacement) of podocyte foot processes. This effacement of the podocytes long was thought to be a secondary phenomenon of nephrotic syndrome.

Schematic drawing of the glomerular barrier. Podo Schematic drawing of the glomerular barrier. Podo = podocytes; GBM = glomerular basement membrane; Endo = fenestrated endothelial cells; ESL = endothelial cell surface layer (often referred to as the glycocalyx). Primary urine is formed through the filtration of plasma fluid across the glomerular barrier (arrows); in humans, the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is 125 mL/min. The plasma flow rate (Qp) is close to 700 mL/min, with the filtration fraction being 20%. The concentration of albumin in serum is 40 g/L, while the estimated concentration of albumin in primary urine is 4 mg/L, or 0.1% of its concentration in plasma. Courtesy of the American Physiological Society (www.the-aps.org) and reproduced from Haraldsson B, Nystrom J, Deen WM. Properties of the glomerular barrier and mechanisms of proteinuria. Physiol Rev. 2008 Apr;88(2):451-87.

However, theories have shifted toward the podocyte as playing a primary role in the development of proteinuria. Insights into the molecular biology of the podocyte have greatly expanded the understanding of the pathophysiology of proteinuria in renal diseases. Various forms of INS have been described with genetic mutations, such as those associated with the following[21, 22] :

  • Slit-diaphragm and podocyte cytoskeleton: NPHS1, NPHS2, TRCP6, CD2AP, ACTN4, INF2, MYH9,MYO1E

  • Phospholipases and second-messenger systems: PLCE1

  • Glomerular basement membrane: LAMB2

  • Transcription factors: WT1, LMX1B

  • Lysosomal proteins: SCARB2

  • Mitochondrial proteins: COQ2

  • DNA-nucleosome restructuring mediator: SMARCAL1

Nephrin is a transmembrane protein that is a major structural element of the slit diaphragm and is encoded by the NPHS1 gene on chromosome 19. Mutations in the NPHS1 gene are responsible for autosomal recessive, congenital nephrotic syndrome of the Finnish type (FNS).

FNS is characterized by massive proteinuria in the first year of life (usually within the first 3 months) and progression to end-stage kidney disease within the first decade of life, although milder forms of the disease have been described.[21] Mutations in NPHS1 are usually associated with congenital nephrotic syndrome, but Philippe et al have described NPHS1 mutations in children aged 6 months to 8 years with later-onset steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome (SRNS).[23] Santin et al have described NPHS1 mutations in patients with later childhood-onset as well as adult-onset SRNS.[24]

Podocin is another podocyte protein that interacts with nephrin and CD2AP and is integral to the assembly of the slit diaphragm. Podocin is encoded by the NPHS2 gene on chromosome 1. Mutations in the NPHS2 gene were originally described in patients with autosomal recessive, steroid-resistant INS with FSGS on biopsy. Podocin mutations account for approximately 45-55% of familial and 8-20% of sporadic cases of SRNS.[21]

α-Actinin-4, encoded by the gene ACTN4 on chromosome 19, cross-links actin filaments of the podocyte cytoskeleton and anchors them to the glomerular basement membrane. The TRPC6 gene on chromosome 11 encodes for a calcium channel associated with the slit diaphragm.[21] Disruptions in either ACTN4 or TRPC6 are associated with autosomal dominant forms of FSGS.[20]

CD2AP, which codes for a podocyte protein that associates with podocin and nephrin, has been linked to the development of nephrotic syndrome in animal models. However, the role it plays in human nephrotic syndrome is unclear. Various case reports have demonstrated heterozygous mutations in CD2AP in patients with nephrotic syndrome and FSGS. One report describes a single patient with a homozygous mutation in CD2AP and early onset of nephrotic syndrome with FSGS and diffuse mesangial sclerosis.[21]

Because African Americans have a 3- to 4-fold higher risk of end-stage kidney disease compared with persons of European ancestry, genetic studies have sought to explain this greater propensity to kidney disease. A strong association was found in African Americans between idiopathic and HIV-related FSGS, as well as hypertensive end-stage kidney disease and mutations in the nonmuscle myosin heavy chain 9 (MYH9) gene. Nonmuscle MYH9 is a podocyte protein that binds to the podocyte actin cytoskeleton to perform intracellular motor functions.[25]

More recent studies have demonstrated that the increased risk of kidney disease previously ascribed to MYH9 is, in fact, more strongly associated with variations in the neighboring apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1) gene. Interestingly, these APOL1 variations, which are more common in African Americans but absent in whites, are able to lyse trypanosomes and may confer resistance to African sleeping sickness (Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense infection).[26]

Another nonmuscle myosin gene, MYO1E, was reported to be associated with FSGS in children. Mutation of the MYO1E gene led to disruption of the podocyte cytoskeleton.[27]

Other genetic forms of nephrotic syndrome continue to shed light on the pathogenesis of INS. Mutations in the developmental regulatory gene WT1 are associated with forms of congenital nephrotic syndrome associated with male pseudohermaphroditism, Wilms tumor (Denys-Drash syndrome), and gonadoblastoma (Frasier syndrome).

Mutations in phospholipase C epsilon 1 (PLCE1), a cytoplasmic enzyme required for podocyte maturation, have been associated with as many as 28% of cases of congenital nephrotic syndrome due to isolated (nonsyndromic) diffuse mesangial sclerosis. Nail-patella syndrome, a disorder characterized by skeletal and nail dysplasia as well as nephrotic syndrome, is caused by mutations in the LMX1B gene, which regulates expression of type IV collagen and the podocyte proteins nephrin, podocin, and CD2AP.[28]

Pierson syndrome, characterized by microcoria, abnormal lens shape, cataracts, blindness, severe neurologic deficits, congenital nephrotic syndrome, and progressive kidney failure, is caused by a mutation in the LAMB2 gene that codes for laminin b2, which is found in glomerular basement membrane, retina, lens, and neuromuscular synapses.[21]

Other rare forms of nephrotic syndrome have been associated with mutations in SCARB2, which codes for a lysosomal protein; disruption of this gene causes a syndrome of myoclonus epilepsy and glomerulosclerosis. Alterations in the mitochondrial protein coded by the gene COQ2 are associated with a syndrome of encephalopathy and nephropathy. Finally, mutations in the DNA-nucleosome restructuring mediator SMARCAL1 cause Schimke immuno-osseous dysplasia, a syndrome characterized by spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia (SED) resulting in disproportionate short stature, nephropathy, and T-cell deficiency.[22]

Monogenic causes of INS primarily result in SRNS. More than 39 genes have been associated with SRNS, and approximately 30% of children with SRNS may be found to have a single-gene cause of their disease.[3]

The role of podocyte gene alterations in minimal change nephrotic syndrome (MCNS) is unclear. Podocin appears to be expressed normally in MCNS but is decreased in FSGS.

Mutations in nephrin and podocin do not appear to play a role in steroid-sensitive nephrotic syndrome. However, acquired alterations in slit diaphragm architecture might play a role in INS apart from actual mutations in the genes encoding podocyte proteins. Various authors have reported changes in expression and distribution of nephrin in MCNS.

Coward et al demonstrated that nephrotic plasma induces translocation of the slit diaphragm proteins nephrin, podocin, and CD2AP away from the plasma membrane into the cytoplasm of the podocyte.[29] These authors also demonstrated that normal plasma might contain factors that maintain the integrity of slit diaphragm architecture and that the lack of certain factors (rather than the presence of an abnormal circulating factor) might be responsible for alterations in the podocyte architecture and the development of INS.

CD80, a T-cell costimulatory transmembrane protein, is expressed in podocytes and has been implicated in the pathogenesis of MCNS. Urinary CD80 levels are higher in patients with MCNS than in controls and patients with other glomerular diseases such as FSGS. Binding of interleukins or microbial products to toll-like receptors on the surface of the podocyte may lead to overexpression of CD80, as well as another protein, C-mip. CD80 and C-mip, in turn, may interfere with the proteins Nck and Fyn, leading to dephosphorylation of nephrin and dysruption of the podocyte actin cytoskeleton, which result in conformational changes in the podocyte and slit diaphragm that cause proteinuria.[30]

Blockade of CD80 by abatacept and belatacept has not been shown to attenuate proteinuria, however.[31] Hemopexin, a glycoprotein synthesized by the liver, may also induce nephrin-dependent changes in the podocyte skeleton that lead to proteinuria.[30]

Apart from the podocyte and slit diaphragm, alterations in the glomerular basement membrane also likely play a role in the proteinuria of nephrotic syndrome. In INS, the glomerular capillary permeability to albumin is selectively increased, and this increase in filtered load overcomes the modest ability of the tubules to reabsorb protein.

In its normal state, the glomerular basement membrane is negatively charged because of the presence of various polyanions along its surface, such as heparan sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, and sialic acid. This negative charge acts as a deterrent to filtration of negatively charged proteins, such as albumin. Experimental models in which the negative charges are removed from the basement membrane show an increase in albuminuria. Children with MCNS have been reported to have decreased anionic charges in the glomerular basement membrane.[28] Angiopoietin-like 4 and IL-8 may play a role in reducing anionic charges in the glomerular basement membrane.[30]

Edema

The classic explanation for edema formation is a decrease in plasma oncotic pressure, as a consequence of low serum albumin levels, causing an extravasation of plasma water into the interstitial space. The resulting contraction in plasma volume (PV) leads to stimulation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone axis and antidiuretic hormone. The resultant retention of sodium and water by the renal tubules contributes to the extension and maintenance of edema.

While the classic model of edema (also known as the "underfill hypothesis") seems logical, certain clinical and experimental observations do not completely support this traditional concept. First, the PV has not always been found to be decreased and, in fact, in most adults, measurements of PV have shown it to be increased. Only in young children with MCNS have most (but not all) studies demonstrated a reduced PV.

Additionally, most studies have failed to document elevated levels of renin, angiotensin, or aldosterone—even during times of avid sodium retention. Active sodium reabsorption also continues despite actions that should suppress renin effects (eg, albumin infusion or angiotensin-converting enzyme [ACE] inhibitor administration).

Coupled with these discrepancies is the fact that, in the patient with steroid-responsive nephrotic syndrome, diuresis usually begins before the plasma albumin level has significantly increased and before the plasma oncotic pressure has changed. Some investigators have demonstrated a blunted responsiveness to atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) despite higher than normal circulating plasma levels of ANP.[32]

Another model of edema formation, the "overfill hypothesis," postulates a primary defect in renal sodium handling. A primary increase in renal sodium reabsorption leads to net salt and water retention and subsequent hypertension.

ANP might play a role in this mechanism; studies have shown an impaired response to ANP in nephrotic syndrome. This ANP resistance, in part, might be caused by overactive efferent sympathetic nervous activity, as well as enhanced tubular breakdown of cyclic guanosine monophosphate.

Other mechanisms that contribute to a primary increase in renal sodium retention include overactivity of the Na+ -K+ -ATPase and renal epithelial sodium channel (RENaC) in the cortical collecting duct and the shift of the Na+/H+ exchanger 3 (NHE3) from the inactive to active pools in the proximal tubule.[32]

A more recent theory of edema formation posits that massive proteinuria leads to tubulointerstitial inflammation and release of local vasoconstrictors and inhibition of vasodilation. This leads to a reduction in single-nephron glomerular filtration rate and sodium and water retention.[32]

Thus, the precise cause of edema and its persistence is uncertain. A complex interplay of various physiologic factors, such as the following, probably contribute:

  • Decreased oncotic pressure

  • Increased activity of aldosterone and vasopressin

  • Diminished ANP level

  • Activities of various cytokines and physical factors within the vasa recti

Hyperlipidemia

INS is accompanied by disordered lipid metabolism. Apolipoprotein (apo)-B–containing lipoprotein levels are elevated, including very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), intermediate-density lipoprotein (IDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and lipoprotein(a), with resultant increases in total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol. The level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is normal or low. Elevations in triglyceride levels occur with severe hypoalbuminemia.

The traditional explanation for hyperlipidemia in INS was the increased synthesis of lipoproteins that accompany increased hepatic albumin synthesis due to hypoalbuminemia. However, serum cholesterol levels have been shown to be independent of albumin synthesis rates.

Decreased plasma oncotic pressure may play a role in increased hepatic lipoprotein synthesis, as demonstrated by the reduction of hyperlipidemia in patients with INS receiving either albumin or dextran infusions. Also contributing to the dyslipidemia of INS are abnormalities in regulatory enzymes, such as lecithin-cholesterol acyltransferase, lipoprotein lipase, and cholesterol ester transfer protein.[32, 33]

Thrombosis

Patients with nephrotic syndrome are at increased risk for thrombosis. The incidence of thromboembolic complications (TEC) is about 25% in adults with nephrotic syndrome.

The risk of TEC varies with the underlying disease. The incidence of TEC in infants with congenital nephrotic syndrome is about 10%. The risk of thrombosis increases throughout childhood, and adolescents are at higher risk than younger children after the first year of life. The risk of TEC also is greater in secondary than in primary nephrotic syndrome. Children with membranous nephropathy and nephrotic syndrome are at high risk for TEC, with an incidence of approximately 25%.[34] Zaffanello and Franchini found the subclinical rate of pulmonary embolism in children with nephrotic syndrome to be 28% using scintigraphic pulmonary ventilation and perfusion studies.[35]

The risk of TEC is greatest earlier in the course of nephrotic syndrome. The median time from diagnosis of nephrotic syndrome to TEC was 70 days in one study. Other studies have shown that the majority of TEC occur within the first 3 months of diagnosis.[34]

Renal vein thrombosis, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism (PE) are the most frequently encountered TEC in children. Other venous sites of thrombosis include the superior sagittal sinus, other cerebral venous sites, and the inferior vena cava.

Arterial thrombosis, although less common than venous TEC, can occur and has been reported at the axillary, subclavian, femoral, coronary, and mesenteric arteries.[36]

Nephrotic syndrome is a hypercoagulable state. The increased risk of thrombosis can be attributed to 2 basic mechanisms: (1) urinary losses of antithrombotic proteins and (2) increased synthesis of prothrombotic factors.[37]

Decreased antithrombotic factors include the following:

  • Antithrombin III

  • Proteins C and S (conflicting data)

Increased synthesis of prothrombotic factors include the following:

  • Increased platelet number, activation, and aggregation

  • Elevation in levels of factors V and VIII, von Willebrand factor, α2-plasmin inhibitor, plasminogen activator inhibitor 1, and fibrinogen

  • Increased activities of tissue plasminogen activator and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1

These abnormalities in hemostatic factors, combined with potential hypovolemia, immobility, and increased incidence of infection, lead to a hypercoagulable state in INS.[1, 38]

Infection

Patients with INS are at increased risk for infection. Peritonitis and sepsis are the most common and serious infections. Peritonitis occurs at a rate of approximately 2-6% and may be accompanied by sepsis or bacteremia. The predominant bacterial causes are Streptococcus pneumoniae and Gram-negative enteric organisms such as Escherichia coli.[39]

Various infections can also occur, including meningitis, cellulitis, viral infections, and others. Varicella is a particular concern in immunosuppressed patients and can be lethal. Prompt recognition and treatment with acyclovir (or postexposure prophylaxis with varicella-zoster immune globulin [VZIG]) is essential. Routine childhood varicella immunization has alleviated some of the concern regarding this complication.

Infection, viral or bacterial, can trigger relapse of INS and further complicate the course of the condition.

Risk of infection may be increased in INS because of low immunoglobulin (Ig) G levels, which do not appear to be the result of urinary losses. Instead, low IgG levels seem to be the result of impaired synthesis, again pointing to a primary disorder in lymphocyte regulation in INS.

Additionally, increased urinary losses of factor B are noted. This is a cofactor of C3b in the alternative pathway of complement, which plays an important role in the opsonization of encapsulated organisms such as S pneumoniae. Impaired T-cell function may also be present in INS, which contributes to the susceptibility to infection. Finally, the medications used to treat INS, such as corticosteroids and alkylating agents, further suppress the immune system and increase the risk of infection.[1]

Acute kidney failure

Acute kidney failure (AKF) is a rare complication of INS, occurring in about 0.8% of cases.[40] Causes include the following[40] :

  • Rapid progression of underlying disease (nephrotic syndrome other than MCNS, secondary nephrotic syndrome)

  • Bilateral renal vein thrombosis

  • Acute interstitial nephritis (AIN) due to drug therapy (eg, antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents [NSAIDs], diuretics)

  • Acute tubular necrosis (ATN) due to hypovolemia or sepsis

Use of ACE inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) in conjunction with volume depletion can also precipitate AKF.

Etiology

Causes of INS include the following:

  • Minimal change nephrotic syndrome (MCNS)

  • Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS)

  • Membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN)

  • Membranous glomerulonephritis (MGN)

  • C3 glomerulonephritis

  • IgA nephropathy

  • Idiopathic crescentic glomerulonephritis

Causes of genetic or congenital nephrotic syndrome include the following:

  • Finnish-type congenital nephrotic syndrome (NPHS1, nephrin)

  • Denys-Drash syndrome (WT1)

  • Frasier syndrome (WT1)

  • Diffuse mesangial sclerosis (WT1, PLCE1)

  • Autosomal recessive, familial FSGS (NPHS2, podocin)

  • Autosomal dominant, familial FSGS (ACTN4, α-actinin-4, TRPC6)

  • Nail-patella syndrome (LMX1B)

  • Pierson syndrome (LAMB2)

  • Schimke immuno-osseous dysplasia (SMARCAL1)

  • Galloway-Mowat syndrome

  • Oculocerebrorenal (Lowe) syndrome

Infections that can cause secondary nephrotic syndrome include the following:

  • Congenital syphilis, toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus infection, rubella

  • Hepatitis B and C

  • HIV infection/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)

  • Malaria

Drugs that can cause secondary nephrotic syndrome include the following:

  • Penicillamine

  • Gold

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

  • Interferon

  • Mercury

  • Heroin

  • Pamidronate

  • Lithium

Systemic diseases that can cause secondary nephrotic syndrome include the following:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus

  • Malignancy: Lymphoma, leukemia

  • Vasculitis: Wegener granulomatosis (granulomatosis with polyangiitis), Churg-Strauss syndrome (eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis), polyarteritis nodosa, microscopic polyangiitis, Henoch-Schönlein purpura (HSP)

  • Immune-complex–mediated: Poststreptococcal (postinfectious) glomerulonephritis

Epidemiology

Incidence

In the United States, the reported annual incidence rate of nephrotic syndrome is 2-7 cases per 100,000 children younger than 16 years. The cumulative prevalence rate is approximately 16 cases per 100,000 individuals.[41] The International Study of Kidney Disease in Children (ISKDC) found that 76.6% of children with INS had MCNS on kidney biopsy findings, with 7% of cases associated with FSGS.[4, 42]

A study from New Zealand found the incidence of nephrotic syndrome to be almost 20 cases per million children under age 15 years.[43] In specific populations, such as those of Finnish or Mennonite origin, congenital nephrotic syndrome may occur in 1 in 10,000 or 1 in 500 births, respectively.[44]

Some studies have suggested a change in the histology of INS over the past few decades, although the overall incidence of INS has remained stable. The frequency of FSGS associated with INS appears to be increasing. A review of the literature suggested a 2-fold increase in the incidence of FSGS in recent decades.[45] However, another study found no evidence of an increasing incidence of FSGS.[46]

Race-, sex-, and age-related demographics

Black and Hispanic children appear to have an increased risk of steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome and FSGS.[46, 47] An increased incidence of INS is reported in Asian children (6 times the rate seen in European children). An increased incidence of INS is also seen in Indian, Japanese, and Southwest Asian children.

Primary steroid-sensitive nephrotic syndrome (SSNS) is rare in Africa, where nephrotic syndrome is more likely to be secondary or steroid-resistant. These variations in ethnic and geographic distribution of INS underscore the genetic and environmental influences in the development of PNS.[1]

In children younger than 8 years at onset, the ratio of males to females varies from 2:1 to 3:2 in various studies. In older children, adolescents, and adults, the male-to-female prevalence is approximately equal. ISKDC data indicate that 66% of patients with either MCNS or FSGS are male, whereas 65% of individuals with MPGN are female.

Of patients with MCNS, 70% are younger than 5 years. Only 20-30% of adolescents with INS have MCNS on biopsy findings. In the first year of life, genetic forms of INS and secondary nephrotic syndrome due to congenital infection predominate.[41]

Prognosis

Since the introduction of corticosteroids, the overall mortality of INS has decreased dramatically from over 50% to approximately 2-5%. Despite the improvement in survival, INS is usually a chronic, relapsing disease and most patients experience some degree of morbidity, including the following:

  • Hospitalization, in some instances.

  • Frequent monitoring both by parents and by physicians.

  • Administration of medications associated with significant adverse events.

  • A high rate of recurrence (relapses in >60% of patients).

  • The potential for progression to chronic kidney failure and end-stage kidney failure.

Additionally, INS is associated with an increased risk of multiple complications, including edema, infection, thrombosis, hyperlipidemia, acute kidney failure, and possible increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The prognosis varies, depending on whether the nephrotic syndrome is steroid responsive or steroid resistant.

Steroid-responsive nephrotic syndrome

Patients who remain responsive to steroids with remission of proteinuria, even with frequent relapses, generally have a good prognosis. The ISKDC found that in 93% of children with INS who responded to steroids, kidney biopsy revealed MCNS.[5] In contrast, 75% of patients who did not initially respond to steroids had histology other than MCNS.

About 90% of children with MCNS (but only 20% of children with FSGS) achieve remission after the initial course of steroid treatment.

Despite the generally favorable prognosis in patients who respond to steroids, the ISKDC reported a 60% rate of subsequent relapses, which can lead to complications, increased morbidity, and decreased quality of life.[5] A longer course of initial steroid treatment (12 weeks rather than the original ISKDC protocol of 8 weeks) may reduce the rate of subsequent relapse to 36%,[48] which still represents a large number of patients who undergo repeated courses of immunosuppression, with possible hospitalizations, edema, infections, medication adverse effects, and other comorbidities.

A long-term study of 398 children with INS found that the percentage of children who became free of relapses during the course of their disease rose from 44% at 1 year after diagnosis to 69% at 5 years and 84% at 10 years after diagnosis.[41, 49] Although most children with INS who respond to steroids achieve long-term remission, relapses may continue into adulthood.

Older studies suggested that more than 90% of children achieve long-term remission without further relapses by puberty. However, this has been challenged by surveys indicating a rate of relapse during adulthood as high as 27-42%.[50]

In a retrospective study, Vivarelli et al reported that the length of time between initiation of steroid treatment and syndrome remission is an early prognostic indicator for children with INS.[51] In study participants who did not suffer relapse or who relapsed infrequently, the median time from treatment onset to remission was less than 7 days. In patients who had frequent relapses or who developed steroid-dependent nephrotic syndrome, the median time to remission was more than 7 days.

A study of 42 adult patients with a history of childhood INS found that 33% of patients continued to relapse into adulthood. Fortunately, overall morbidity (eg, bone disease, infections, malignancies, cardiovascular complications) remained low, and patients had normal adult height, body mass index (BMI), and kidney function. Predictors of adult relapse included the number of relapses during childhood and the use of immunosuppressant medications other than steroids (ie, cyclosporine, chlorambucil, cyclophosphamide).[52]

Steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome

Approximately 10% of patients overall with INS do not respond to an initial trial of steroids (2% of patients with MCNS do not respond to steroids). Additionally, about 1-3% of patients who initially do respond to steroids later become resistant to treatment ("late non-responders").[1]

Most patients who do not achieve remission of proteinuria with steroids have kidney biopsy findings other than MCNS. The most common diagnosis in these patients is FSGS.

More than 60% of patients with nephrotic syndrome and FSGS who fail to achieve remission with any treatment progress to end-stage kidney disease (ESKD). In contrast, only 15% of patients with FSGS who achieve remission by any treatment progress to ESKD.[53] Gipson et al reported a 90% lower risk of progression to ESKD in patients with INS who achieved remission.[54]

Thus, patients with steroid-resistant INS have a good prognosis if remission of proteinuria can be achieved by medications other than corticosteroids. Failure to respond to treatment (ie, failure to achieve remission) and kidney insufficiency at presentation are predictors of poor outcome and progression to ESKD.[55]

General complications

Complications of INS include the following:

  • Edema.

  • Hyperlipidemia.

  • Thrombosis (renal vein thrombosis, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism are the most frequently encountered thromboembolic complications in children; other venous sites of thrombosis include the superior sagittal sinus, other cerebral venous sites, and the inferior vena cava).

  • Infection (spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, sepsis, cellulitis).

  • Acute kidney failure.

  • Adverse effects of medications (steroids, diuretics, albumin, steroid-sparing agents).

Patient Education

Soon after nephrotic syndrome is diagnosed, the patient and the family should be educated about the disease, its management, and its expected course. The family should participate in therapeutic decisions and should be encouraged to adhere to the medical regimen.

As with all chronic illnesses, many psychosocial issues may need to be addressed, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Behavior

  • Adherence to medication

  • Adequate parental/caretaker supervision

  • Medical insurance

  • Missed work and school due to hospitalizations and outpatient visits

Consultation with social workers and mental health care workers may be useful.

Links to resources for parents can be found at the Web sites for the American Society of Pediatric Nephrology (ASPN) and the National Kidney Foundation.

 

Presentation

History

Edema is the presenting symptom in about 95% of children with nephrotic syndrome. Early on, the edema is intermittent and insidious, and its presence may not be appreciated. A common story is for the child to present to a primary care practitioner repeatedly for periorbital edema, which is ascribed to "allergies" until the edema progresses.

Edema usually appears first in areas of low tissue resistance (eg, the periorbital, scrotal, and labial regions). It can progress rapidly or slowly. Ultimately, it becomes generalized and can be massive (anasarca). The edema is pitting and typically dependent, being more noticeable in the face in the morning and predominantly in the lower extremities later in the day.

A history of a respiratory tract infection immediately preceding the onset of nephrotic syndrome is frequent, but the relevance to causation is uncertain. Upper respiratory tract infections, otitis media, and other infections are often associated with relapses of idiopathic nephrotic syndrome (INS) as well. Approximately 30% of children have a history of allergy. A hypersensitivity event, such as a reaction to a bee sting or poison ivy, has been reported to precede the onset of INS in some cases.[1]

Children with nephrotic syndrome occasionally present with gross hematuria. The frequency of macrohematuria depends on the histologic subtype of nephrotic syndrome. It is more commonly associated with membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN) than with other subtypes, but its frequency in minimal change nephrotic syndrome (MCNS) has been reported to be as high as 3-4% of cases.

Statistically, a higher percentage of patients with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) have microhematuria than those with MCNS, but this is not helpful in differentiating between types of nephrotic syndrome in the individual patient.

Given the risk of thrombosis in INS, renal vein thrombosis must be considered in patients with significant hematuria. Rarely, a child can present with other symptoms secondary to thrombosis, such as seizure caused by cerebral thrombosis.

A child might be brought to medical attention for symptoms of infection, such as fever, lethargy, irritability, or abdominal pain due to sepsis or peritonitis. Peritonitis can be mistaken for appendicitis or other cause of acute abdomen unless the child's proteinuria and edema are appreciated.

Anorexia, irritability, fatigue, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea are common. Gastrointestinal distress can be caused by ascites, bowel wall edema, or both. Respiratory distress can occur, due to either massive ascites and thoracic compression or frank pulmonary edema and effusions, or both.

Except in rare cases of familial INS, no significant family history of kidney disease or INS is usually noted. Children are typically healthy prior to the onset of INS and, except for the history of allergy and atopy noted above, do not usually have a significant past medical history related to INS.

Physical Examination

The most common clinical finding is edema. The edema is pitting and is typically found in the lower extremities, face and periorbital regions, scrotum or labia, and abdomen (ascites). In those children with marked ascites, mechanical restriction to breathing may be present, and the child may manifest compensatory tachypnea. Pulmonary edema and effusions can also cause respiratory distress. Hypertension can be present and is more common in children with FSGS and MPGN than in those with MCNS.

Physical findings of the complications of INS can also be evident. Abdominal tenderness might indicate peritonitis. Hypotension and signs of shock can be present in children with sepsis. Thrombosis can cause various findings, including tachypnea and respiratory distress (pulmonary thrombosis/embolism), hematuria (renal vein thrombosis), and seizure (cerebral thrombosis).

 

DDx

Diagnostic Considerations

Acute kidney failure (AKF) is a rare complication of idiopathic nephrotic syndrome. Fever, rash, arthralgia, and eosinophilia with a "bland" urinalysis (minimal cellular elements) in the presence of AKF are typical of acute interstitial nephritis. However, obvious clinical symptoms may be absent except for the AKF and unremarkable urinalysis. Gross hematuria, flank pain, and thrombocytopenia may be signs of renal vein thrombosis. Hemoconcentration in the patient with anasarca might indicate intravascular volume depletion.

Differential Diagnoses

 

Workup

Approach Considerations

The first step in evaluating the child with edema is to establish whether nephrotic syndrome is present, because hypoalbuminemia can occur in the absence of proteinuria (such as from protein-losing enteropathy), and edema can occur in the absence of hypoalbuminemia (for example, in angioedema, capillary leak, venous insufficiency, or congestive heart failure).

In order to establish the presence of nephrotic syndrome, laboratory tests should confirm (1) nephrotic-range proteinuria, (2) hypoalbuminemia, and (3) hyperlipidemia. Therefore, initial laboratory testing should include the following[56] :

  • Urinalysis

  • Urine protein quantification (by first-morning urine protein/creatinine ratio or 24-hour urine protein measurement)

  • Serum albumin

  • Lipid panel

Once the presence of nephrotic syndrome has been established, the next task is to determine whether the nephrotic syndrome is primary (idiopathic) or secondary to a systemic disorder and, if idiopathic nephrotic syndrome (INS) has been determined, whether signs of chronic kidney disease, kidney insufficiency, or other renal disorders exclude the possibility of minimal change nephrotic syndrome (MCNS). Therefore, in addition to the above tests, the following should be included in the workup[56] :

  • Complete blood cell (CBC) count

  • Metabolic panel (serum electrolytes, blood urea nitrogen [BUN] and creatinine, calcium, phosphorus, and ionized calcium levels)

  • Testing for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B and C viruses

  • Complement studies (C3, C4)

  • Antinuclear antibody (ANA), anti–double-stranded DNA antibody, anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (in selected patients)

Patients with INS lose vitamin D–binding protein, which can result in low vitamin D levels, and thyroid-binding globulin, which can result in low thyroid hormone levels. Consideration should be given, especially in the child with frequently relapsing or steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome, to testing for 25-OH-vitamin D; 1,25-di(OH)-vitamin D; free T4; and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

Other tests and procedures in selected patients may include the following:

  • Genetic studies

  • Kidney ultrasonography

  • Chest radiography

  • Mantoux test

  • Kidney biopsy (age < 1 year or >12 years, or other circumstances)

Age plays an important role in the diagnostic evaluation of nephrotic syndrome. Children younger than 1 year who present with nephrotic syndrome should be evaluated for congenital/infantile nephrotic syndrome. In addition to the tests listed above, infants should have the following tests:

  • Congenital infection (syphilis, rubella, toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus infection, HIV infection)

  • Kidney biopsy

  • Genetic tests for NPHS1, NPHS2, WT1, and PLCE1 as guided by biopsy findings and clinical presentation; presence of extrarenal syndromic findings might indicate other genetic testing, such as LAMB2 (Pierson syndrome), LMX1B (nail-patella syndrome), and SMARCAL1 ( Schimke immuno-osseous dysplasia)

Occasionally, a patient with nephrotic syndrome either presents with or develops clinical signs of an acute abdomen, which is frequently due to peritonitis. The diagnosis can usually be made clinically and confirmed by bacteriologic examination of the peritoneal fluid aspirate. The organism most often responsible for the peritonitis is Streptococcus pneumoniae; however, enteric bacteria may also cause peritonitis. Treatment is medical rather than surgical.

Urine Studies

Microscopic hematuria is present in 20% of cases of INS and cannot be used to distinguish between MCNS and other forms of glomerular disease.

Red blood cell casts, if present, are suggestive of acute glomerulonephritis, such as postinfectious nephritis, or a nephritic presentation of chronic glomerulonephritis, such as membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN). Granular casts may be present and are non-specific as to etiology.

The presence of macroscopic (gross) hematuria is unusual in MCNS and suggests another cause, such as MPGN, or a complication of INS, such as renal vein thrombosis.

Urine protein quantification

A first-morning urine protein/creatinine ratio is more easily obtained than a 24-hour urine study, is possibly more reliable, and excludes orthostatic proteinuria. A urine protein/creatinine ratio of more than 2-3 mg/mg is consistent with nephrotic-range proteinuria.

A 24-hour urine protein level of more than 40 mg/m2/hr also defines nephrotic-range proteinuria.

Blood Studies

Serum albumin levels in nephrotic syndrome are generally less than 2.5 g/dL. Values as low as 0.5 g/dL are not uncommon.

Lipid panel findings are typically as follows:

  • Elevated total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol

  • Elevated triglycerides with severe hypoalbuminemia

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol (normal or low)

The patient with INS, even MCNS, can present with acute kidney failure as a result of intravascular volume depletion or bilateral renal vein thrombosis. Elevated BUN and creatinine levels and signs of chronic kidney failure (such as poor growth, anemia, acidosis, hyperkalemia, hyperphosphatemia, and elevated parathyroid hormone) suggest a chronic glomerular disease other than MCNS, such as one of the following:

  • Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS)

  • Membranous nephropathy (MN)

  • MPGN

  • Immunoglobulin (Ig)A nephropathy

Serum sodium levels are low in patients with INS because of hyperlipidemia (pseudohyponatremia), as well as dilution due to water retention. Total calcium levels are low because of hypoalbuminemia, but ionized calcium levels are normal.

On the CBC count, an increased hemoglobin level and hematocrit indicate hemoconcentration and intravascular volume depletion. The platelet count is often increased.

HIV, hepatitis B virus, and hepatitis C virus are important secondary causes of nephrotic syndrome. Consequently, screening for these viruses should be performed in all patients who present with nephrotic syndrome. Consider checking liver enzymes, such as alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST), when screening for liver disease.

Low complement levels (C3, C4) are found in postinfectious glomerulonephritis, C3 glomerulonephritis/MPGN, and lupus nephritis.

ANA and anti–double-stranded DNA antibody assays are used to screen for collagen-vascular disease in patients with systemic symptoms (fever, rash, weight loss, joint pain) or in any patient with nephrotic syndrome who presents in later school-age or adolescent years when the incidence of lupus is higher.

Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is especially useful in syndromic nephrotic syndrome (NS), congenital and infantile NS, and steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome (SRNS). The detection of a monogenic cause of NS can deter the unnecessary use of immunosuppressive medications, because genetic NS is generally unresponsive to such treatment. Conversely, the absence of a known genetic cause might justify further treatment with non-steroidal immunosuppressive agents.

Additionally, knowledge of the presence or absence of a genetic cause can allow the practitioner to offer guidance to famillies regarding clinical course and prognosis, as well as the risk of recurrence after transplantation. Finally, identification of a known genetic cause for NS may allow further genetic counseling regarding family planning and antenatal screening.[57]  Because approximately 30% of children with SRNS may have a single-gene cause of their disease, it is recommended that all children with SRNS (as well as all patients with congenital, infantile, and syndromic NS) undergo genetic testing when possible.[3]

Traditional genetic testing by Sanger sequencing was slow and costly. However, high-throughput, next-generation sequencing (NGS) has made genetic testing more accurate, cost-efficient, timely, and practical. NGS allows screening of large gene panels for monogenic causes of NS.[58] The figure below outlines a practical approach to genetic tesing in childhood NS.

Mutational screening in children with isolated ste Mutational screening in children with isolated steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome (SRNS). If next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology is accessible, screening should utilize a gene panel including, but not limited to, the most common monogenic causes of SRNS. If NGS technology is not available, genes should be screened in numerical order of frequency per age group. Ethnicity and histologic findings should trigger preferential screening of certain genes. DMS = diffuse mesangial sclerosis. Courtesy of Pediatric Nephrology (Open Access journal) and reproduced from Preston R, et al. Genetic testing in steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome: why, who, when and how? Pediatr Nephrol. 2019 Feb;34(2):195-210.

When gene panel testing is not available, patients with infantile or congenital NS should be tested for mutations in NPHS1 and WT1. If the results are normal, testing for mutations in NPHS2 and PLCE1 should be considered. Although LAMB2 and LMX1B are generally associated with syndromic NS, isolated cases of congenital NS have been reported and consideration should be given for testing for mutations in these genes as well. Genetic testing for WT1 mutations also should be considered in patients who present with NS and extrarenal features of Denys-Drash syndrome (NS, pseudohermaphroditism or genitourinary tract anomalies, and Wilms tumor) or Frasier syndrome (NS, pseudohermaphroditism or genitourinary tract anomalies, and gonadoblastoma).

Infants with NS and neurologic or visual disturbances should be considered candidates for LAMB2 testing (Pierson syndrome).[21]  The presence of other extrarenal findings might indicate further genetic testing, such as LMX1B (nail-patella syndrome) and SMARCAL1 (Schimke immuno-osseous dysplasia).

In patients who are initially or subsequently unresponsive to steroid treatment, in addition to kidney biopsy, consideration should be given to testing for mutations in podocin (NPHS2), ACTN4, and TRPC6.

Imaging Studies

Kidney ultrasonography

Kidney ultrasonography findings are usually nonspecific. The kidneys are typically enlarged due to tissue edema. Increased echogenicity is usually indicative of chronic kidney disease other than MCNS, in which echogenicity is usually normal. A finding of small kidneys indicates chronic kidney disease other than MCNS and is often accompanied by elevated serum creatinine levels.

Chest radiography

Chest radiography is indicated in the child with respiratory symptoms. Pleural effusions are common, although pulmonary edema is rare.

Chest radiography also should be considered before steroid therapy to rule out tuberculosis (TB) infection, especially in the child with a positive or previously positive Mantoux test or prior treatment for TB.

Mantoux Test

A Mantoux test (purified protein derivative [PPD] test) should be performed before steroid treatment to rule out TB infection.

Mantoux testing can be performed concurrent to starting steroids, as treatment with steroids for 48 hours prior to reading the PPD test does not mask a positive result and the risk associated with 2 days of steroid therapy is minimal. If test results are positive, steroids should be stopped immediately.

In children with a positive PPD test, previously positive PPD test, or prior treatment for TB, chest radiography should be performed.

Kidney Biopsy

A kidney biopsy is not indicated for the first presentation of INS in children aged 1-12 years unless the history, physical findings, or laboratory results indicate the possibility of secondary nephrotic syndrome or primary nephrotic syndrome other than MCNS. Kidney biopsy is indicated in patients younger than 1 year, when genetic forms of congenital nephrotic syndrome are more common, and in patients older than 12 years, when chronic glomerular diseases such as FSGS have a higher incidence.[59]

A kidney biopsy is also indicated if the patient has any of the following:

  • Symptoms of systemic disease (eg, fever, rash, joint pain)

  • Laboratory findings indicative of secondary nephrotic syndrome (eg, positive ANA result, positive anti–double-stranded DNA antibody findings, low complement levels)

  • Elevated creatinine levels unresponsive to correction of intravascular volume depletion

  • A relevant family history of kidney disease

Finally, in patients who are initially or subsequently unresponsive to steroid treatment, kidney biopsy should be performed, because steroid unresponsiveness has a high correlation with prognostically unfavorable histology findings, such as those associated with FSGS or membranous glomerulonephritis (MGN).

Histologic Findings

If a kidney biopsy is performed, various histologic findings can be present, depending on the etiology of the nephrotic syndrome. A detailed discussion of the various types of INS and histologic findings is beyond the scope of this article. Briefly, the most common histologic types of INS are as follows.

Minimal change nephrotic syndrome

MCNS indicates glomerular morphology that on light microscopic examination is little different from normal. Minimal mesangial hypercellularity may be present. Immunofluorescent microscopy (IF) usually reveals no presence of immune deposits.

Occasionally, mesangial IgM deposition may be seen on IF. Some consider the presence of IgM to indicate a separate entity (IgM nephropathy), whereas others consider this to be a variant of MCNS. The presence of IgM may indicate a more difficult course of nephrotic syndrome, with frequent relapses, steroid dependence, or steroid resistance, although the overall prognosis is still usually favorable. The only significant change seen on electron microscopy (EM) is flattening and fusion of the podocyte foot processes (effacement).[60]

Diffuse mesangial proliferation

Diffuse mesangial proliferation (DMP) refers to increased mesangial matrix and increased mesangial hypercellularity. IF findings are negative and EM reveals the typical foot process effacement of MCNS. Patients with DMP have an increased incidence of steroid resistance, although whether these patients are at increased risk for progression to kidney failure is unclear.[60]

Focal glomerulosclerosis

FSGS describes a lesion in which, as seen on light microscopy (LM), discrete segments of the glomerular tuft reveal sclerosis (segmental); some glomeruli are involved, and others are spared (focal).

Adhesion of the glomerular tuft to the Bowman capsule (synechiae) is observed. Glomerular hypertrophy is common. Interstitial fibrosis and tubular atrophy are often present and correlate with the severity of disease.

IF reveals IgM and C3 trapped in the sclerotic areas. As in MCNS, EM reveals effacement of the podocyte foot processes. Additionally, EM reveals obliteration of capillary lumens by fine granular and lipid deposits.

A subtype of FSGS, in which the glomerular tufts demonstrate collapse of capillaries (collapsing glomerulopathy) on LM, has a poorer prognosis and high rate of progression to end-stage kidney disease (ESKD).

FSGS is not a specific disease but a histopathologic finding that can be associated with INS but can also be found in a wide variety of other conditions, including HIV nephropathy, heroin nephropathy, reflux nephropathy, obstructive uropathy, renal hypoplasia, hypertension, obesity, and Alport syndrome.

As always, clinical and histopathologic correlations must be made when considering the findings evident on kidney biopsy.[60]

Membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis

MPGN is also known as mesangiocapillary glomerulonephritis. Glomeruli are typically lobulated in appearance on LM and demonstrate mesangial proliferation. Silver staining may reveal characteristic duplication of the glomerular basement membrane ("tram-track" appearance). IF findings reveal characteristic capillary deposition of C3.

Three types of MPGN are recognized and can be distinguished by EM findings according to the location of immune deposits. Type 1 is subendothelial; type 2 has ribbon-like, dense intramembranous deposits; and type 3 is subendothelial and subepithelial. Some controversy surrounds the existence of type 3 MPGN as a distinct entity or a variant of type 1.[61]

Membranous nephropathy

MN is a rare finding in INS of childhood, comprising only approximately 1% of biopsies, whereas in adult INS, MN can be found in 25-40% of cases. LM typically reveals thickening of the glomerular basement membrane. Silver staining may demonstrate characteristic "spikes," resulting from protrusion of basement membrane around immune deposits. IF shows fine granular IgG and complement staining along the periphery of the glomerular capillary wall. EM reveals subepithelial electron-dense deposits.[62]

Histologic staging

Various staging schemes are recognized for the different histologic lesions of INS. In general, when referring to kidney biopsy, the severity and chronicity of the disease is determined by the extent of tubulointerstitial fibrosis. The greater the extent of fibrosis, the greater the irreversibility of the disease and the poorer the prognosis, regardless of histologic subtype.

 

Treatment

Approach Considerations

A trial of corticosteroids is the first step in the treatment of idiopathic nephrotic syndrome (INS) in which kidney biopsy is not initially indicated. Thus, patients may be considered for steroid treatment prior to kidney biopsy if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • Age 1-12 years

  • Normal kidney function

  • No macroscopic (gross) hematuria

  • No symptoms of systemic disease (fever, rash, joint pain, weight loss)

  • Normal complement levels

  • Negative antinuclear antibody (ANA) assay

  • Negative viral screens (ie, for human immunodeficiency virus [HIV], hepatitis B and C viruses)

  • No family history of kidney disease

Kidney biopsy should be performed prior to any immunosuppressive treatment, including steroids, in patients who meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Age younger than 1 year or older than 12 years

  • Presence of recurrent gross hematuria

  • Relevant family history of kidney disease

  • Symptoms of systemic disease

  • Positive viral screens

Additional criteria are laboratory findings possibly indicative of secondary nephrotic syndrome or INS other than minimal change nephrotic syndrome (MCNS), such as the following:

  • Sustained elevation in serum creatinine levels

  • Low complement levels (C3, C4)

  • Positive ANA findings

  • Positive anti–double-stranded DNA antibody assay

In these cases, histology guides treatment, and steroids may or may not be indicated depending on the underlying etiology.

Children older than 12 years require a kidney biopsy because of the rising incidence of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) and other causes of nephrosis in that age range.

The Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes (KDIGO) group released guidelines that address management of steroid-sensitive nephrotic syndrome in children aged 1-18 years.[63]

Highlights of these guidelines include the following[63] :

  • Definition of nephrotic syndrome: Edema, urine protein:creatinine ratio ≥2 mg/mg; urine protein ≥300 mg/dL, dipstick urine protein 3+, hypoalbuminemia ≤2.5 mg/L.

  • Initial treatment: Oral prednisone, starting as a daily dose of 60 mg/m2/day or 2 mg/kg/day (maximum, 60 mg/day) for 4-6 weeks. After 4-6 weeks, switch to 40 mg/m2 or 1.5 mg/kg (maximum, 40 mg) on alternate days for 2-5 months with tapering, with a minimum total duration of treatment of 12 weeks.

  • Treatment of infrequent relapse (1 relapse in 6 months or 1-3 relapses in 12 months): Administer initial treatment dose (60 mg/m2/day or 2 mg/kg/day) until urinary protein is negative for 3 days; after urine is negative for protein for 3 days, change prednisone to 40 mg/m2 or 1.5 mg/kg (maximum, 40 mg) on alternate days for 4 weeks, then stop or taper dose.

  • Treatment of frequent relapse (2 relapses in 6 months or ≥4 relapses in 12 months): Continue infrequent relapse treatment for 3 months at the lowest dose to maintain remission or use corticosteroid-sparing agents, including alkylating agents, levamisole, calcineurin inhibitors, and mycophenolate mofetil.

The treatment of steroid-sensitive INS, steroid-dependent and frequently relapsing INS, steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome (SRNS), and FSGS are discussed in detail below. The treatment of membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN), membranous nephropathy (MN), congenital nephrotic syndrome, and secondary nephrotic syndrome (eg, lupus nephritis and vasculitis) are beyond the scope of this article.

Hyperlipidemia

Lipid abnormalities generally resolve when nephrotic syndrome is in remission. Dietary modification does not appear to be effective in limiting hyperlipidemia during active nephrotic syndrome.[64]

Chronic hyperlipidemia has been linked to an increased risk of atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.[41] Chronic hyperlipidemia has also been associated with progression of renal disease. However, the small studies to date of lipid-lowering agents in pediatric INS have not shown an improvement in proteinuria or progression of renal disease.[33]

Dyslipidemias in adults with nephrotic syndrome have been successfully treated with the following:

  • Statins (simvastatin, lovastatin)

  • Fibrates (gemfibrozil)

  • Bile acid–binding resins (cholestyramine)

  • Probucol

Children with INS have been effectively treated with probucol, but this agent has been associated with a prolonged QT interval and is not available in the United States. Gemfibrozil has also been shown to be effective in childhood nephrotic syndrome in small studies.[64]

Small studies have shown that simvastatin and lovastatin are well tolerated and effective in childhood INS. Total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol were reduced by 42%, 44%, and 46%, respectively. No changes in proteinuria, hypoalbuminemia, or progression of renal disease were noted.[18, 64, 65]

In order to monitor for treatment-associated rhabdomyolysis, children treated with statins should have creatine kinase measured prior to initiating therapy and every 6-12 weeks during treatment. Patients and families should be instructed to report muscle soreness, tenderness, or pain. Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels should be measured before initiating treatment and about every 3 months thereafter to monitor for liver toxicity.[64]

Long-term safety studies regarding statins in pediatrics are lacking, and the routine use of statins was not recommended by an expert panel. The only drugs recommended by the panel were bile acid sequestrants.[64]

Thromboembolism

Initial treatment of thromboembolic complications includes thrombolysis with anticoagulants (such as heparin) or fibrinolytic agents (ie, tissue plasminogen activator, streptokinase, urokinase).[35] For secondary prevention, warfarin is often prescribed for a period of as long as 6 months.[41]

Empiric prophylactic anticoagulation is not routinely indicated in INS. Some practitioners advocate the use of long-term, low-dose aspirin in patients with chronic nephrotic syndrome (eg, frequently relapsing nephrotic syndrome, steroid-dependent nephrotic syndrome [SDNS], and SRNS). However, adequate controlled trials examining the use of aspirin have not been performed.[35]

Acute kidney failure

Acute kidney failure may rarely result from complications of INS, from the underlying disease, or from drug therapy. In most cases, acute kidney failure is reversible with the remission of nephrotic syndrome, correction of intravascular volume contraction, or (in patients with acute interstitial nephritis) removal of the inciting agent.[40]

Rheault et al looked at the incidence, epidemiology, and hospital outcomes associated with acute kidney injury in children hospitalized with nephrotic syndrome and found that acute kidney injury occurred in 58.6% of 336 children and 50.9% of 615 hospitalizations. Risk factors for acute kidney injury included SRNS, infection, and nephrotoxic medication exposure.[66]

Corticosteroid Therapy

Initial therapy

Exclude active infection or other contraindications before starting steroid therapy.

The original International Study of Kidney Disease in Children (ISKDC) protocol recommended induction therapy with oral prednisone or prednisolone at 60 mg/m2/day (2 mg/kg/day), with a maximum of 60 mg, daily for 4 weeks. Traditionally, the total daily dose was split into 2 doses. However, a single daily dose of steroids has efficacy equal to split dosing and fewer adverse effects.[67]

The KDIGO clinical practice guidelines recommend prednisone dosed at 60 mg/m2/day (2 mg/kg/day) given daily for 4-6 weeks, followed by 40 mg/m2 (1.5 mg/kg) given on alternate days for 2-5 months, with a minimum total duration of treatment of 12 weeks.[63]

Studies since the ISKDC have shown that a longer period of initial steroid treatment (6 weeks rather than 4 weeks) reduces the subsequent rate of relapse. Thus, the general consensus now is to prescribe the initial daily steroids for 6 weeks.[48, 59]

Earlier guidelines recommended that induction therapy be followed with maintenance therapy with oral prednisone or prednisolone at 40 mg/m2 (or 1.5 mg/kg), with a maximum of 40 mg, given as a single dose on alternate days for 4 weeks. Subsequent studies demonstrated that a longer alternate-day maintenance period of 6 weeks resulted in a lower rate of relapse.[48]

Thus, the general consensus is daily induction steroid treatment for 6 weeks, followed by alternate-day maintenance therapy for another 6 weeks.[59] After 6 weeks of alternate-day treatment, steroids may be stopped or slowly tapered over a variable length of time.

A Cochrane review suggested that after the initial daily steroid induction phase, continuation of alternate-day steroid therapy for 6 months could reduce the subsequent relapse rate by 33% compared with a shorter alternate-day regimen.[68] However, several randomized controlled trials failed to show a benefit of extended 6-month steroid therapy versus 2-3 months of treatment; therefore, the 6-month steroid regimen is no longer recommended.[56]

Treatment of infrequent relapses

For infrequent relapses (1 relapse within 6 months of initial response, or 1-3 relapses in any 12-month period), steroids are resumed, although for a shorter duration than treatment during the initial presentation. Prednisone, 2 mg/kg/day (60 mg/m2/day), is given as a single morning dose until the patient has been free of proteinuria for at least 3 days. Following remission of proteinuria, prednisone is reduced to 1.5 mg/kg (40 mg/m2) given as a single dose on alternate days for 4 weeks. Steroids may then be stopped or gradually tapered.[63, 59]

Diuretic Therapy

Diuretic therapy may be beneficial, particularly in children with symptomatic edema. Loop diuretics, such as furosemide (starting at 1-2 mg/kg/day), may improve edema; their administration, however, should be handled with care because plasma volume contraction may already be present, and hypovolemic shock has been observed with overly aggressive therapy.

Metolazone may be beneficial in combination with furosemide for resistant edema. Patients must be monitored carefully on this regimen. If the child is sent home on diuretic therapy, the family must have clear guidelines about discontinuing therapy when edema is no longer present and careful communication with the family should continue.

When a patient presents with anasarca and signs of intravascular volume depletion (such as a high hematocrit, indicative of hemoconcentration), consideration should be given to administration of 25% albumin, although this is controversial. Rapid administration of albumin can result in pulmonary edema.

The author's practice has been to administer 25% albumin at a dose of 1 g/kg body weight given as a continuous infusion over 24 hours. Intravenous albumin may be particularly useful in diuretic-resistant edema and in patients with significant ascites or scrotal, penile, or labial edema. Caution should be used when administering albumin. In addition to pulmonary edema, albumin infusion can result in acute kidney injury and allergic reaction.

Antihypertensive Therapy

Antihypertensive therapy should be given when hypertension is present and particularly if it persists, but caution should be exercised. In some patients, the hypertension will respond to diuretics. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) may also contribute to reducing proteinuria but should be used cautiously in the presence of acute kidney failure or volume depletion because they can worsen kidney function in these settings.

Because ACE inhibitors and ARBs can cause birth defects, adolescent women who are taking these agents must be counseled regarding the use of birth control, and pregnancy testing should be considered before starting these agents.

Calcium channel blockers and beta-blockers may also be used as first-line agents for hypertension.

Home Monitoring

Home monitoring of urine protein and fluid status is an important aspect of management. All patients and parents should be trained to monitor first-morning urine proteins at home with a urine dipstick. Urine testing at home is also useful in monitoring response (or non-response) to steroid treatment.

Weight should be checked every morning as well, and a home logbook should be kept recording the patient’s daily weight, urine protein levels, and steroid dose if the patient is being treated. Families and patients are instructed to call for any edema, weight gain, or proteinuria of 2+ or more for more than 2 days.

Frequently Relapsing and Steroid-Dependent Disease

Frequently relapsing nephrotic syndrome (FRNS) is defined as steroid-sensitive nephrotic syndrome (SSNS) with 2 or more relapses within 6 months, or 4 or more relapses within a 12-month period. Steroid-dependent nephrotic syndrome (SDNS) is defined as SSNS with 2 or more consecutive relapses during tapering or within 14 days of stopping steroids.[63]

The current KDIGO guidelines recommend that in FRNS and SDNS, prednisone be prescribed at 2 mg/kg/day (60 mg/m2/day) as a single morning dose until the patient has been free of proteinuria for at least 3 days. Following remission of proteinuria, prednisone is reduced to 1.5 mg/kg (40 mg/m2) given as a single dose on alternate days and tapered over 3 or more months.[63] A steroid-sparing agent, such as those listed below, can be considered once proteinuria is in remission.

With frequent courses of steroids or prolonged corticosteroid treatment, the risk of steroid toxicity is increased. Therefore, in FRNS and SDNS, the general practice is to change therapy to a steroid-sparing agent once remission of proteinuria has been achieved. Commonly used steroid-sparing agents are alkylating agents, calcineurin inhibitors, levamisole, mycophenolate mofetil, and rituximab.

Alkylating agents

Cyclophosphamide (CYP) is the predominant alkylating agent used in the treatment of FRNS and SDNS. CYP offers the benefit of possible sustained remission after a defined course of treatment, although with the possible risk of infertility and other adverse effects.

In a Cochrane meta-analysis, CYP was found to have significantly reduced the risk of relapse at 6-12 months and 12-24 months compared with steroid treatment alone.[69]

CYP (2 mg/kg daily) is given orally for 8-12 weeks. An early study found that a 12-week course was more effective than an 8-week course in producing sustained remission of nephrotic syndrome.[70] However, a subsequent randomized trial did not reach the same conclusion,[71]  and a Cochrane report found no benefit to extending the duration of CYP treatment beyond 8 weeks. Intravenous CYP, given monthly for 6 months, was as effective at 1 year as oral CYP in the Cochrane report.[72]

A meta-analysis reported remission rates following treatment with CYP to be 72% after 2 years and 36% after 5 years for patients with FRNS, and 40% and 24%, respectively, for those with SDNS.[73]

Patients treated with CYP must have weekly complete blood cell counts to monitor for leukopenia. Patients must also maintain adequate hydration and take CYP in the morning (not at bedtime) to limit the risk of hemorrhagic cystitis. Families must be counseled to report gross hematuria, fever, or severe illness.

Calcineurin inhibitors (CNI)

Calcineurin inhibitors (eg, cyclosporin A [CSA] and tacrolimus [TAC]) are useful steroid-sparing agents. These agents can also be used in children who fail to respond to, or subsequently relapse after, treatment with CYP, or in children whose families object to the use of CYP. There appears to be no difference in efficacy at 1 year between CSA and CYP.[72]

CNIs have disadvantages: prolonged courses of treatment are needed, nephrotic syndrome tends to recur when treatment is stopped, and nephrotoxic injury may occur. Consideration should be given to kidney biopsy after prolonged treatment to monitor for CNI-induced nephrotoxicity and fibrosis.

CSA has traditionally been the CNI most frequently used. However, limited studies suggest that TAC may be as effective as CSA. A 2-year prospective, uncontrolled trial demonstrated no difference between CSA and TAC in relapse at 1 and 2 years in children with FRNS and SDNS.[74] A single-center, randomized controlled trial by Choudhry et al found that TAC (0.1-0.2 mg/kg/day) and CSA (5-6 mg/kg/day) had similar efficacy in inducing remission in patients with idiopathic SRNS at 6 months and 1 year when combined with alternate-day low-dose corticosteroids and enalapril.[75]

The use of TAC reduces the risk of gingival hyperplasia and hirsutism associated with CSA, although nephrotoxicity is a risk with TAC as well as CSA.[75] It is the author's practice to use TAC in order to avoid the adverse effects of CSA.

Cyclosporin A

CSA treatment is started at 3-5 mg/kg/day divided every 12 hours; doses are adjusted for trough concentrations of 50-125 ng/mL. However, trough levels correlate poorly with area-under-the-curve (AUC) pharmacokinetics and may not represent true exposure to CSA. Levels obtained 2 hours after administration have a better correlation with AUC.[76]

Kidney function and drug levels must be carefully monitored because of the risk of CSA-induced nephrotoxicity.

Low-dose steroids are continued for a variable length of time. As many as 40% of patients may need to remain on steroids during CSA treatment to maintain remission.[41, 59]

Tacrolimus

TAC is started at a dose of 0.1 mg/kg daily divided every 12 hours and adjusted to keep the trough level at about 5-10 ng/mL.[77] Our practice is to use the lowest possible dose that sustains remission and to aim for a trough level of about 3-5 ng/mL. TAC trough levels correspond better to AUC than CSA trough levels, allowing better determination of dosing and exposure with TAC than with CSA.[76] As with CSA, continuing low-dose steroid therapy is often necessary to maintain remission, although some patients may eventually be able to discontinue steroids.

Levamisole

Levamisole is an anthelmintic drug that has immune-modulating effects and can be effective in reducing the relapse rate in FRNS. However, it is unavailable in the United States. Adverse effects include leukopenia, hepatic dysfunction, agranulocytosis, vasculitis, and encephalopathy. Levamisole is prescribed at a dose of 2.5 mg/kg given on alternate days.[41]

Mycophenolate mofetil

Mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) has been increasingly used in FRNS and SDNS because it has fewer adverse effects than CYP, CSA, and TAC.[78] Although small studies have shown MMF to be effective in reducing the number of relapses in FRNS and SDNS, adequate randomized controlled trials still need to be performed.

One study of 33 patients, using a 6-month course of MMF with tapering-dose alternate-day steroids, achieved a 75% remission rate, which persisted in 25% of patients after discontinuation of MMF. Additionally, this study demonstrated an improvement in relapse rate from once every 2 months to once every 14.7 months.[79]  However, a multicenter, randomized, open-label study of 60 children with FRNS no difference in relapses at 2 years between MMF and CSA.[80]

MMF might be a useful steroid-sparing agent in stable patients (without excessive edema, need for hospitalization, and other serious complications) whose families wish to avoid the possible adverse effects of CYP, CSA, and TAC. However, the response to MMF varies and is less reliable than other treatments.

MMF is started at a dose of 600 mg/m2 twice daily. Complete blood cell counts should be monitored for bone marrow suppression, and liver function tests should occasionally be performed to monitor for hepatic toxicity.

MMF may be an effective and safe maintenance therapy to consider as an additive immunosuppressant after induction with rituximab in maintaining remission among children with refractory SRNS.[81]

Rituximab

Rituximab is a chimeric anti-CD20 antibody that results in depletion of B cells. Rituximab may be considered in children with SDNS or FRNS in whom other treatments have failed or those with cumulative toxicity of other steroid-sparing agents. The usual dosing schedule is 2-4 weekly doses of rituximab (375 mg/m2 per dose).

A study by Basu et al that included 176 pediatric patients with SDNS reported a higher 12-month relapse-free survival rate in the rituximab group than in the TAC group (90.0% vs 63.3%) as well as a lower 12-month cumulative corticosteroid dose in the rituximab group.[82]

Kamei et al examined the long-term outcomes and safety of rituximab treatment to prevent relapses of complicated FRNS and SDNS in 51 children and reported that 94% of patients in the study developed relapses during the observation period (median, 59 months); the 50% relapse-free survival was 261 days. Fifty-nine percent of the patients developed SDNS, 86% required re-administration of immunosuppressive agents, and 43% received additional rituximab treatment.[83]

In an open-label, randomized, controlled, noninferiority trial, 54 children with steroid- or CNI-dependent INS were randomized to either standard treatment (prednisone/CNI) or rituximab in addition to low-dose prednisone and a CNI. Three months after randomization, proteinuria was 70% lower in patients treated with rituximab than in those who received standard therapy; relapse occurred in 18.5% of the rituximab group and 48% of the standard treatment group. At 3 months, 63% of the rituximab group was drug free, compared with 4% of the standard treatment group. It was concluded that rituximab with low-dose prednisone and a CNI was noninferior to standard therapy in maintaining short-term remission in children with steroid- and CNI-dependent INS.[8]

A multicenter, randomized, controlled trail in 48 children with FRNS or SDNS demonstrated a significantly longer median relapse-free period for rituximab (267 days) than for placebo (101 days).[9]

The adverse effects of rituximab are rare but potentially serious. Risks include Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia, pulmonary fibrosis, and progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy.[78]  

Steroid-Resistant Disease and Focal Segmental GS

Genetic considerations play an important role in the treatment of SRNS and FSGS; approximately 30% of children with SRNS may have a single-gene cause of their disease.[3] Monogenic SRNS and FSGS are generally unresponsive to immunosuppressive medications, and identification of monogenic cases may avoid unnecessary treatment.

Calcineurin inhibitors (CSA and TAC) are the mainstay of treatment for SRNS and FSGS. In response to CNI treatment, SRNS without a clear genetic link may show complete remission in up to 60% of patients and partial remission in 19% of patients.[56] In one study, the response rate (complete and partial remission) to CSA for non-genetic SRNS was 68% versus 17% (partial remission only) for genetic SRNS.[84]  In a study by Büscher et al, 60% of patients with non-genetic SRNS achieved complete remission and another 19% had partial remission with CSA treatment, compared with 16% of patients with genetic SRNS who had only partial remission.[85]

The efficacy of TAC seems similar to that of CSA. As mentioned above, TAC may have the advantage of avoiding the gingival hyperplasia and hypertrichosis associated with CSA.[75]

Initial dosing recommendations for CSA and TAC in SRNS and FSGS are similar to those for FRNS and SDNS: CSA, 3-5 mg/kg/d divided every 12 hours; TAC, 0.1 mg/kg daily divided every 12 hours. Higher doses may be needed in SRNS and FSGS, and the dose may need to be titrated up carefully until a response is seen or adverse effects warrant a reduction in dose or discontinuation of treatment.[41]

An early, controversial protocol involved high-dose, intravenous methylprednisolone tapered over 78 weeks, in combination with alternate-day oral prednisone; CYP or chlorambucil was added if remission was not achieved in the first 10 weeks. The authors reported a 52% remission rate in SRNS.[86] However, subsequent studies using this protocol have not duplicated the initial success. The risk of steroid toxicity and infection, as well as the lack of sufficient evidence for the effectiveness of this protocol, has dampened enthusiasm for this treatment.

Most studies have shown no clear benefit to the use of alkylating agents in FSGS and SRNS.[60, 87]

In a nonrandomized study of children with SRNS, approximately half responded to MMF. Of 34 patients treated with CSA prior to MMF, 20% achieved complete remission, 39% achieved partial remission, and 41% had no response. Among 18 patients treated only with MMF, 27% achieved complete remission, 33% partial remission, and 40% had no response.[88] The MMF regimen used in this study was 500-600 mg/m2/day or 18 mg/kg/day (maximum, 1 g) for a minimum of 6 months.

In the largest prospective, randomized trial to date in pediatric FSGS, 138 children and adults (aged 2-40 years) received treatment with CSA or MMF with dexamethasone (dexa). Thirty-three percent of patients treated with MMF/dexa and 45% of patients treated with CSA achieved partial or complete remission, which was not statistically different in response rate. No difference was noted between the 2 treatment arms in the rate of sustained remission.[89]

The data are limited regarding the efficacy of rituximab in SRNS and FSGS. Case series indicate that rituximab may be effective in SRNS.[56] However, in an open-label, randomized, controlled trial in 31 children with SRNS resistant to steroids and CNI, no reduction in proteinuria was observed with the addition of rituximab.[10]

Two randomized trials in SRNS have shown a reduction in proteinuria with enalapril or fosinopril. Therefore, ACE inhibitors or ARBs should be considered for all patients with SRNS and FSGS, except when limited by hyperkalemia or significantly reduced kidney function.[56] Additionally, ACE inhibitor and ARB treatment may also have a renoprotective effect and slow progression of renal disease by inhibiting pathways of fibrosis.[90]

Investigational Treatments

Plasmapheresis, galactose, zinc, and monoclonal antibodies other than rituximab have been studied in nephrotic syndrome but cannot be routinely recommended.

Plasmapheresis

Because of the evidence of immunologic mechanisms and presumed circulating factors in the pathophysiology of nephrotic syndrome, plasmapheresis has been attempted in patients with treatment-resistant FSGS and SRNS. To date, a few case reports and small series have shown some efficacy in reducing proteinuria in patients with FSGS or SRNS treated with plasmapheresis or immunoadsorption.[91]

Routine use of plasmapheresis or immunoadsorption in SRNS and FSGS cannot be recommended at this time. However, evidence suggests that plasmapheresis might be effective in treating recurrence of proteinuria in patients with FSGS who have received a kidney transplant.[92]

Galactose

Some patients with FSGS have an incompletely characterized circulating permeability factor (FSPF) that has been associated with recurrence of FSGS after kidney transplantation. Galactose has a high affinity for FSPF. An adult patient with FSPF-positive FSGS who was treatment-resistant was given galactose (10 g orally twice daily).[93] He achieved complete remission of proteinuria within 7 months and, 2 years later, remained in complete remission (on a higher dose of 15 g orally twice daily).

In one small study, 7 children with SRNS and positive FSPF activity were treated with oral galactose (0.2 g/kg twice daily) for 16 weeks. Despite a decrease in FSPF, no reduction in proteinuria was demonstrated.[94]

Further studies are needed before the routine use of galactose can be recommended, and its safety and efficacy in children are unknown.

Zinc

A study examined oral zinc supplementation (10 mg daily) in children with SSNS.[95] The authors found a trend in the reduction of relapse frequency and an increase in remission length. However, the study was underpowered to show statistical significance.

In a study of 60 children with SSNS, patients were randomized to receive zinc or placebo in addition to standard treatment for 6 months. Patients treated with zinc demonstrated a 43% reduction in relapses compared with those who received placebo.[96]

Further studies are needed before the routine use of zinc supplementation can be recommended.

Monoclonal antibodies beyond rituximab

Ofatumumab (OFA), a new humanized anti-CD20 antibody that depletes B cells in a similar manner to rituximab, is currently under investigation for the treatment of childhood INS.

In one study, 4 of 5 children with rituximab-resistant SRNS achieved complete remission over 12 months of follow-up after treatment with OFA (300 mg/1.73 m2 for the first week, followed by 5 weekly infusions [2 g/1.73 m2 each]).[97]

In another study, 4 children with SRNS unresponsive to multiple drugs, including rituximab, were treated with OFA (300 + 700 mg/1.73 m2, 2 weeks apart). One patient achieved stable remission at 12 months of follow-up, whereas another child had only transient remittance of proteinuria; the other 2 children had no response.[98] In a later study, the same group treated 2 patients allergic to rituximab and induced stable remission after 12 months of follow-up following treatment with a single dose (750 mg/1.73 m2) of OFA.[99]  

Wang et al treated 5 childhood INS patients (4 with SRNS and one with post-transplant recurrence of FSGS) with OFA (300 mg/1.73 m2 for the first week, followed by 4 or 5 weekly infusions of 2 g/1.73 m2). Three patients achieved complete remission, and 1 patient had partial remission.[100]

A double-blind, randomized, controlled superiority trial is underway to compare OFA with rituximab in children who have SDNS and CNI-dependent NS.[101]

Other biologic therapies that have been investigated include the following:

  • Abatacept (an inhibitor of the T-cell costimulatory molecule B7-1 [CD80])
  • Adalimumab (a monoclonal antibody against tumor necrosis factor alpha)
  • Fresolimumab (a monoclonal antibody against transforming growth factor beta)

There are no data to support the efficacy or use of these agents at this time.[102]

Side Effects of Drug Therapy

Corticosteroids

Behavioral changes, increased appetite, and Cushingoid signs (rounded, or "moon," facies) are common during the first 6 weeks of daily therapy but typically begin to subside during the alternate-day maintenance therapy period and, if steroids are successfully discontinued, usually disappear completely within 3-6 months

If longer periods of corticosteroid therapy are required, the risk of complications increases. Complications of long-term steroid therapy may include the following:

  • Infection

  • Obesity

  • Growth delay

  • Osteopenia

  • Avascular necrosis of the hip

  • Cataracts

  • Hypertension

  • Hyperglycemia

  • Nephrolithiasis

  • Hyperlipidemia

Nutritional counseling and an exercise regimen may help to limit weight gain during steroid therapy. Consideration should be given to monitoring of bone density by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) in patients who are receiving long-term corticosteroid therapy.

Diuretics

Loop diuretics (furosemide, bumetanide) commonly cause hypokalemia and contraction alkalosis. Serum electrolytes should be monitored and electrolyte abnormalities treated as indicated.

Metolazone may augment these adverse effects. The use of potassium-sparing diuretics (spironolactone, amiloride) may help to limit hypokalemia.

Albumin

Infusion of 25% albumin can result in pulmonary edema, congestive heart failure, and acute kidney injury. Albumin should be used cautiously, sparingly, and only in those patients with hemoconcentration or diuretic-resistant edema. Slow infusion of 1 g/kg as a continuous infusion over 24 hours might help to limit complications.

Calcineurin inhibitors

Cyclosporin A (CSA) and tacrolimus (TAC) can cause increased susceptibility to infection, direct nephrotoxicity, hyperkalemia, and hypertension. CSA can also cause hirsutism and gingival hyperplasia, whereas TAC can cause impaired glucose tolerance and overt diabetes.

Alkylating agents

Cyclophosphamide (CYP) can cause dose-related infertility (including azoospermia, oligospermia, and amenorrhea), nausea, and hair loss. The risk of infertility rises above a cumulative CYP dose of 200 mg/kg. Hair loss, when it occurs, is usually mild and not cosmetically significant in the doses used for most types of INS.

Alkylating agents can also cause myelosuppression and increased susceptibility to infection. CYP can cause hemorrhagic cystitis and increased incidence of bladder malignancy.

Mycophenolate mofetil

The adverse effects of MMF include cramps, diarrhea, gastrointestinal distress, myelosuppression, and increased susceptibility to infection.

Rituximab

The adverse effects of rituximab are rare but potentially serious. Risks include Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia, pulmonary fibrosis, and progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy.[78]  

Antihypertensive agents

Blood pressure medications have numerous adverse effects, which can include the following:

  • Hyperkalemia and acute kidney failure (ACE inhibitors, ARBs)

  • Hypotension

  • Bradycardia (beta-blockers)

  • Fatigue

  • Sedation (clonidine)

  • Electrolyte disturbances (diuretics)

Indications for Hospital Admission

Admitting all patients with new-onset nephrotic syndrome to the hospital is not necessary. Individually address the decision on whether to admit the child or to investigate and initiate treatment on an outpatient basis.

Possible medical indications for admission include the following:

  • Anasarca, especially when resistant to outpatient therapy or accompanied by respiratory compromise, massive ascites, or scrotal/perineal or penile edema

  • Significant hypertension

  • Anuria or severe oliguria

  • Peritonitis, sepsis, or other severe infection

  • Significant respiratory tract infection

  • Significant azotemia

Hospital admission may be necessary because of social reasons and often is useful on initial presentation of idiopathic nephrotic syndrome (INS) in order to provide intensive education of the family regarding INS and long-term management at home.

Diet and Activity

A sodium-restricted diet should be maintained while a patient is edematous and until proteinuria remits. Thereafter, a normal diet can be followed. During severe edema, careful and modest fluid restriction may be appropriate, but the patient must be monitored closely for excessive intravascular volume depletion.

Protein restriction is not indicated, except in cases of acute or chronic kidney failure when severe azotemia is present. Even then, protein restriction should be done carefully so as to avoid impaired somatic growth.

A normal activity plan is recommended. Because viral respiratory illnesses are often associated with relapses of nephrotic syndrome, keeping children with INS away from those who have obvious respiratory tract infections may be beneficial. However, children should not be kept out of school and should have as normal a routine as possible.

Vaccination

Yearly influenza vaccination is recommended to prevent serious illness in the immunocompromised patient, as well as to prevent this possible trigger of relapse.

Pneumococcal vaccination (23-valent and heptavalent) should be administered to all patients with INS upon presentation. Vaccination should be repeated every 5 years while the patient continues to have relapses.

Routine childhood vaccines with live virus strains are contraindicated during steroid therapy and for a minimum of 1 month afterward.[103] Care must be taken in administering live viral vaccines to children in remission from FRNS, who might need to restart steroid therapy shortly after vaccination.

Because of the high risk of varicella infection in the immunocompromised patient, postexposure prophylaxis with varicella-zoster immune globulin is recommended in the nonimmune patient. Patients with varicella-zoster infection should be treated with acyclovir and carefully monitored.[41] Varicella immunization is safe and effective in patients with INS who are in remission and off steroid treatment (with the usual precautions for administering live viral vaccines to patients who have received steroids).[104]

Routine non-live viral vaccines should be administered according to their recommended schedules. Although it was formerly believed that routine immunization can trigger a relapse of nephrotic syndrome, no solid evidence supports this belief, and the risk of preventable childhood illnesses exceeds the theoretical, unproven risk of triggering relapses.

Consultations and Long-Term Monitoring

Consultations

Because of the complexity of care of INS in all but the simplest of cases, the lack of strong clinical evidence supporting treatment options, and the great deal of experience required in successfully managing these patients, care of the patient with INS should always be performed in consultation with a pediatric nephrologist.

In cases that have initially been managed by the primary care specialist, referral to a pediatric nephrologist is mandatory in cases of FRNS, SDNS, SRNS, secondary nephrotic syndrome, and situations in which a kidney biopsy is necessary.

Referral to a pediatric nephrologist is mandatory for all children with nephrotic syndrome whose symptoms fail to respond to initial therapy (complete remission of proteinuria); in most of these patients, a percutaneous renal biopsy is indicated, and an alternative treatment plan may be desirable.

As with all chronic illnesses, many psychosocial issues may need to be addressed, including behavior, adherence to medication, adequate parental/caretaker supervision, medical insurance, missed work and school due to hospitalizations and outpatient visits, and many other important issues. Consultation with social workers and mental health care workers may be useful.

Long-term monitoring

Ambulatory monitoring of the child's condition and response to treatment is a very important aspect of the overall management of nephrotic syndrome.

Home monitoring of urine protein and fluid status is an important aspect of management. Parents and caregivers should be trained to monitor first-morning urine proteins at home with urine dipstick. Weight should be checked every morning as well and a home logbook should be kept recording the patient’s daily weight, urine protein, and steroid dose if the child is receiving steroids.

Families and patients are instructed to call for any edema, weight gain, or urine testing of 2+ or more for protein for more than 2 days. Rapid detection of relapse of proteinuria by home testing of urine can allow early initiation of steroid treatment before edema and other complications develop. Urine testing at home is also useful in monitoring response (or nonresponse) to steroid treatment.

Ishikura et al found that children with FRNS commonly suffer relapses following 2 years of cyclosporine treatment but nonetheless have a favorable prognosis with regard to renal function and overall survival. In the study, 46 patients who had participated as children in an earlier study, in which they had received 2 years of cyclosporine treatment, were followed up after a median period of 10.3 years subsequent to the start of that treatment. Twenty-three (50%) of the patients either had continued to experience frequent relapses over the follow-up period or else were receiving immunosuppressant therapy. None of the patients in the second study, however, suffered renal dysfunction or a lethal event during the follow-up period.[105]

 

Medication

Medication Summary

Prednisone is the first-line therapy for children with nephrotic syndrome. Other immunosuppressive medications may be useful in those whose symptoms fail to respond to standard corticosteroid therapy or in those who have frequent relapses.

Glucocorticoids

Class Summary

All glucocorticoids are effective; however, prednisone or prednisolone is used most commonly. Their specific mode of action in nephrotic syndrome is unknown.

Prednisone

Prednisone is a delta1-derivative of naturally occurring adrenocortical steroids. It suppresses key components of the immune system.

Prednisolone (Orapred, Pediapred, Prelone)

Prednisolone is a delta1-derivative of the naturally occurring adrenocortical steroids. It suppresses key components of the immune system.

Diuretics

Class Summary

Diuretics promote excretion of water and electrolytes by the kidneys. These agents are used to treat heart failure or hepatic, renal, or pulmonary disease when sodium and water retention has resulted in edema or ascites.

Furosemide (Lasix)

Furosemide is used when symptomatic edema occurs. It increases excretion of water by interfering with the chloride-binding cotransport system, which, in turn, inhibits sodium and chloride reabsorption in the ascending loop of Henle and distal renal tubule.

Metolazone (Zaroxolyn)

Metolazone increases excretion of sodium, water, potassium, and hydrogen ions by inhibiting reabsorption of sodium in the distal tubules. Metolazone may be used to augment diuretic response during treatment with furosemide.

Plasma protein

Class Summary

This agent is used to supplement diuresis in patients with edema. It increases oncotic pressure and thereby promotes a fluid shift from interstitial tissues.

Albumin (Albuminar, Buminate, Flexbumin, Plasbumin)

Albumin raises oncotic pressure and thus supplements the diuretic effect of furosemide.

Immunosuppressive agents

Class Summary

This agent is used to supplement diuresis in patients with edema. It increases oncotic pressure and thereby promotes a fluid shift from interstitial tissues.

Cyclophosphamide

Cyclophosphamide is a cyclic polypeptide that suppresses some humoral activity. It is chemically related to nitrogen mustards. In the liver, this agent is biotransformed by the cytochrome P-450 system to its active metabolite, 4-hydroxycyclophosphamide, which alkylates the target sites in susceptible cells in an all-or-none type reaction. As an alkylating agent, the mechanism of action of the active metabolites may involve cross-linking of DNA, which may interfere with growth of normal and neoplastic cells.

The mechanism of action of cyclophosphamide in autoimmune diseases is thought to involve immunosuppression due to destruction of immune cells via DNA cross-linking.

In high doses, cyclophosphamide affects B cells by inhibiting clonal expansion and suppression of production of immunoglobulins. With long-term low-dose therapy, it affects T cell functions.

Cyclophosphamide has been successfully used in conditions that require immunosuppression. It is highly effective for frequently relapsing steroid-sensitive nephrotic syndrome; half of the children enter a prolonged remission. Researchers have formulated various protocols for different renal pathological lesions.

Cyclosporine (Sandimmune, Neoral, Gengraf)

Cyclosporine is an 11-amino acid cyclic peptide and natural product of fungi that suppresses some humoral immunity and, to a greater extent, cell-mediated immune reactions (eg, delayed hypersensitivity, allograft rejection, experimental allergic encephalomyelitis, and graft-vs-host disease) for various organs.

This agent is a specific modulator of T-cell replication and activity. It depresses cell-mediated immune responses by inhibiting helper T-cell function. It may produce preferential and reversible inhibition of T lymphocytes in G0 or G1 phase of the cell cycle. Maximum suppression of T-lymphocyte proliferation requires that drug be present during first 24 h of antigenic exposure. This agent has minimal activity against B cells.

Cyclosporine binds to cyclophilin, an intracellular protein, which in turn prevents formation of interleukin 2 and the subsequent recruitment of activated T cells.

The bioavailability of cyclosporine averages about 30%, but this varies markedly between individual patients.

Tacrolimus (Prograf)

Tacrolimus is an immunomodulator produced by the bacterium Streptomyces tsukubaensis. Its mechanism of action is similar to that of cyclosporine. This agent is primarily used in transplant recipients, but is also used in Behçet disease to treat uveitis.

Mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept, Myfortic)

This agent inhibits inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH) and suppresses de novo purine synthesis by lymphocytes, thereby inhibiting their proliferation. It inhibits antibody production.

Antineoplastics, Anti-CD20 Monoclonal Antibodies

Rituximab (Rituxan, Rituximab-abbs, Truxima)

Rituximab is a chimeric, anti-CD20 antibody that results in depletion of B cells. Rituximab may be considered in children with SDNS or FRNS in whom other treatments have failed or those with cumulative toxicity of other steroid-sparing agents

 

Questions & Answers

Overview

How is pediatric nephrotic syndrome defined?

What are the signs and symptoms of nephrotic syndrome in children?

Which tests are performed in the workup of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

Which therapies are used in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the role of the immune system in the pathophysiology of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the role of genetics in the pathophysiology of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the role of edema in the pathophysiology of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the role of lipid metabolism in the pathophysiology of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

Why is the risk for thromboembolic complications (TEC) increased in patients with pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

Why is the risk of infection increased in patients with pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What causes acute kidney failure (AKF) in pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What causes pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the prevalence of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

Which patient groups have the highest prevalence of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the morbidity and mortality associated with pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the prognosis of pediatric nephrotic syndrome responsive to steroids?

What is the prognosis of pediatric nephrotic syndrome resistant to steroids?

What are the possible complications of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is included in patient education about pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

Presentation

Which clinical history findings are characteristic of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

Which physical findings are characteristic of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

DDX

What are the signs and symptoms of acute kidney failure (AKF) in pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What are the differential diagnoses for Pediatric Nephrotic Syndrome?

Workup

How is pediatric nephrotic syndrome diagnosed?

What is the role of urine studies in the workup of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

Which urine protein quantification findings are characteristic of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the role of blood tests in the workup of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the role of genetic testing in the workup of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the role of ultrasonography in the workup of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the role of radiography in the workup of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the role of a Mantoux test in the workup of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the role of biopsy in the workup of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

Which histologic findings are characteristic of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

Which glomerular morphology findings are characteristic of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the significance of a histologic finding of diffuse mesangial proliferation (DMP) in pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the significance of a histologic finding of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) in pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

How are the types of membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis differentiated in pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the prevalence of membranous nephropathy (MN) in pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the histologic staging of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

Treatment

What are the criteria for starting corticosteroids prior to kidney biopsy in children with nephrotic syndrome?

What are the criteria for kidney biopsy in children with nephrotic syndrome?

What are the KDIGO treatment guidelines for steroid-sensitive pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

How is hyperlipidemia treated in pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

How are thromboembolic complications (TECs) treated in pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

How is acute kidney failure treated in pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the initial steroid therapy for the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

How are infrequent relapses of pediatric nephrotic syndrome treated?

What is the role of diuretic therapy in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the role of antihypertensive therapy in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the role of home monitoring in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the role of mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) in the treatment of frequently relapsing nephrotic syndrome (FRNS)?

What is the role of rituximab in the treatment of frequently relapsing nephrotic syndrome (FRNS)?

How is frequently relapsing nephrotic syndrome (FRNS) defined?

How is frequently relapsing nephrotic syndrome (FRNS) treated?

What is the role of alkylating agents in the treatment of frequently relapsing nephrotic syndrome (FRNS)?

What is the role of calcineurin inhibitors (CNIs) in the treatment of frequently relapsing nephrotic syndrome (FRNS)?

What is the role of cyclosporin A (CSA) in the treatment of frequently relapsing nephrotic syndrome (FRNS)?

What is the role of tacrolimus (TAC) in the treatment of frequently relapsing nephrotic syndrome (FRNS)?

What is the role of levamisole in the treatment of frequently relapsing nephrotic syndrome (FRNS)?

How are steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome (SRNS) and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) treated?

Which treatments for pediatric nephrotic syndrome have been investigated?

What is the role of plasmapheresis in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the role of galactose in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the role of zinc in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the role of monoclonal antibodies in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What are the possible adverse effects of corticosteroids in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What are the possible adverse effects of diuretics in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What are the possible adverse effects of albumin in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What are the possible adverse effects of calcineurin inhibitors (CNIs) in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What are the possible adverse effects of alkylating agents in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What are the possible adverse effects of mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What are the possible adverse effects of rituximab in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What are the possible adverse effects of antihypertension medications in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

When is inpatient care required to treat pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

Which dietary modifications are used in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

Which activity modifications are used in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is the role of vaccines in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

Which specialist consultations are beneficial to patients with pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

What is included in the long-term monitoring of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

Medications

What is the role of medications in the treatment of pediatric nephrotic syndrome?

Which medications in the drug class Antineoplastics, Anti-CD20 Monoclonal Antibodies are used in the treatment of Pediatric Nephrotic Syndrome?

Which medications in the drug class Immunosuppressive agents are used in the treatment of Pediatric Nephrotic Syndrome?

Which medications in the drug class Plasma protein are used in the treatment of Pediatric Nephrotic Syndrome?

Which medications in the drug class Diuretics are used in the treatment of Pediatric Nephrotic Syndrome?

Which medications in the drug class Glucocorticoids are used in the treatment of Pediatric Nephrotic Syndrome?