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01.12.2018 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

Critical Care 1/2018

Subclinical acute kidney injury is associated with adverse outcomes in critically ill neonates and children

Critical Care > Ausgabe 1/2018
Fang Fang, Xiaohan Hu, Xiaomei Dai, Sanfeng Wang, Zhenjiang Bai, Jiao Chen, Jian Pan, Xiaozhong Li, Jian Wang, Yanhong Li
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s13054-018-2193-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Fang Fang and Xiaohan Hu contributed equally to this work.



Research on acute kidney injury (AKI) has focused on identifying early biomarkers. However, whether AKI could be diagnosed in the absence of the classic signs of clinical AKI and whether the condition of subclinical AKI, identified by damage or functional biomarkers in the absence of oliguria or increased serum creatinine (sCr) levels, is clinically significant remains to be elucidated in critically ill children. The aims of the study were to investigate the associations between urinary cystatin C (uCysC) levels and AKI and mortality and to determine whether uCysC-positive subclinical AKI is associated with adverse outcomes in critically ill neonates and children.


In this prospective cohort study, uCysC levels were serially measured during the first week after intensive care unit (ICU) admission in a heterogeneous group of patients (n = 510) presenting to a tertiary neonatal and pediatric ICU. The diagnosis of neonatal AKI that developed during the first week after admission was based on neonatal KDIGO criteria or sCr >1.5 mg/dL, and pediatric AKI was based on Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes (KDIGO) criteria. The term “uCysC(−)” or “uCysC(+)”, indicating the absence or presence of tubular injury, was defined by the optimal peak uCysC cutoff value for predicting ICU mortality.


The initial and peak uCysC levels were significantly associated with AKI and mortality, and had an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.76 and 0.81, respectively, for predicting mortality. At the optimal cutoff value of 1260 ng/mg uCr, the peak uCysC displayed sensitivity of 79.2% and specificity of 72.3% for predicting mortality. Among all patients, 130 (25.5%) developed uCysC(+)/AKI(−) status during the first week after admission. The adjusted odds ratio for patients with uCysC(+)/AKI(−) status in association with an increased risk of mortality compared with that for patients with uCysC(−)/AKI(−) was 9.34 (P < 0.001). Patients with uCysC(+)/AKI(−) spent 2.8 times as long in the ICU as those with uCysC(−)/AKI(−) (P < 0.001).


Both initial and peak uCysC levels are associated with AKI and mortality and are independently predictive of mortality in critically ill neonates and children. Subclinical AKI may occur without detectable loss of kidney function, and uCysC-positive subclinical AKI is associated with worse clinical outcomes in this population.
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