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Plasma and urine neutrophil gelatinase associated lipocalin in the diagnosis of new onset acute kidney injury in critically ill patients

Ramprasad Matsa, Emma Ashley, Vivek Sharma, Andrew P Walden and Liza Keating

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Critical Care 2014, 18:R137  doi:10.1186/cc13958

Published: 1 July 2014

Abstract (provisional)


Neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) has been demonstrated to be a useful early diagnostic biomarker of acute kidney injury (AKI) where the timing of the insult is certain. However NGAL is not well validated in adult critical care practice because of indeterminate timing of injury. Therefore we sought to establish the predictive ability of both urine and plasma NGAL to detect AKI in ICU patients.


This prospective observational study was performed in a busy large district general hospital mixed surgical-medical ICU in Reading, UK. Consecutive adult admissions to the ICU, with absence of chronic kidney disease, renal transplant or AKI as defined by RIFLE criteria were included. Blood and urine specimens were collected at admission and every 24-hours until 72-hours and tested for NGAL. The purpose of the study was to assess whether urinary NGAL (uNGAL) or plasma NGAL (pNGAL) can predict the occurrence of AKI at an earlier point of time than the conventional markers i.e. creatinine and urine output as is used in RIFLE criteria.


Over a 12-month period, 194-patients were enrolled. In total, 59 (30.4%) patients developed AKI. The admission pNGAL and uNGAL were significantly higher in the patients who developed AKI compared to the non-AKI patients (436ng/mL (240, 797) versus 168ng/mL (121.3, 274.3) P < 0.001 and 342ng/mL (61.5, 1280) versus 34.5ng/mL (11.5, 107.75) P < 0.001 respectively). Hospital mortality was higher in the AKI group (17% versus 4%). Plasma NGAL performed fairly on admission (AUROC 0.77) and thereafter performance improved at 24 and 48-hours (AUROC 0.88 and 0.87) following ICU admission. Urine NGAL had a fair predictive value on admission (AUROC 0.79) and at 24-hours (AUROC 0.78) and was good at 48-hours (AUROC 0.82).


In critically-ill patients without pre-existing kidney disease, both pNGAL and uNGAL measured at admission can predict AKI (defined by RIFLE criteria) occurrence up to 72-hours post-ICU admission and their performance (AUROC) was fair. The accuracy of NGAL appeared to improve slightly as patients progressed through their ICU stay. Serial measurements of NGAL (both pNGAL and uNGAL) may be of added value in ICU setting to predict the occurrence of AKI.

The complete article is available as a provisional PDF. The fully formatted PDF and HTML versions are in production.