Sheffield trust becomes first lab in the country to predict future kidney failure risk

By Jo Makosinski | Published: 13-Sep-2023

Test provides vital information to GPs about which patients are most likely to need kidney transplantation or dialysis

Laboratories at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have become the first in the country to use a diagnostic tool that calculates the risk of kidney failure in patients with chronic kidney disease.  

The next generation The Kidney Failure Risk Equation (KFRE) tool can automatically calculate the probability of patients developing kidney failure within the next five years based on information from blood and urine tests and age and gender. 

The tool, which has been validated in more than 35 countries worldwide, is set to transform the way laboratories across the UK are able to provide vital information to GPs about individual patient risk for developing end-stage kidney disease.

End-stage kidney disease is when kidney disease has reached its most-severe stage and the damage to the kidney’s function is irreversible. 

National guidelines stipulate that anyone whose individual five-year risk is determined to be 5% or higher should now be referred to a hospital kidney specialist.  

Previously, GPs had to perform the calculations themselves based on the separate test results, which was a more-complex process and could sometimes lead either to patients at elevated risk being missed or unnecessary referrals being made. 

Studies have shown that the accuracy of the KRFE tool enabled clinicians to better communicate risk to patients, and reduced the number of referrals of patients who did not go on to develop kidney failure, while increasing the likelihood of those who did need dialysis or transplant being seen.  

Dr Arif Khwaja, consultant nephrologist at the trust, said: “Once end-stage kidney disease is reached, the damage to the kidney’s function is irreversible, and for most patients treatment with dialysis or kidney transplantation is recommended. 

“By identifying future kidney failure risk, this tool helps patients take steps to protect their kidneys before the disease reaches its most-severe stage, while helping those who do need to be seen and treated by specialists to receive the right care, at the right time.

“People with chronic kidney disease can lead long, healthy lives if the disease is managed through diet and medications.

“A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to roll out this test in our laboratories, so we are delighted to be the first lab in the UK to offer this game-changing predictive tool.” 

Around one in 10 people in the UK are estimated to have chronic kidney disease. However, only a minority of these go on to suffer complete kidney failure.  

The test can be requested by GPs or hospital teams in Sheffield and is rolling out across the region through laboratory collaboration within NHS South Yorkshire. 

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