Diabetic nephropathy is the single most important cause of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in the United States. Further, the increased risk of mortality from type I diabetes is almost entirely confined to patients developing clinical diabetic nephropathy. Nonetheless, kidney biopsy has had little role in the clinical assessment of diabetic patients or in the design of clinical research in diabetic nephropathy. The development of dipstick-positive proteinuria in patients with type I diabetes of more than 10 years' duration is regularly associated with advanced structural changes of diabetic nephropathology; in these patients, clinical parameters, especially the rate of decline of glomerular filtration rate (GFR), are accurate monitors of disease progression. Microalbuminuria indicates a very high risk of overt proteinuria and thus ESRD. This increased risk is associated with levels of urinary albumin excretion (UAE; 〉 30 μg/min [45 mg/24 h]), which are frequently accompanied by hypertension and reduced or decreasing GFR. At this stage, lesions of diabetic nephropathy are usually already well established. Thus, microalbuminuria is more a marker of early nephropathy than a predictor of later renal injury. Before these clinical stages of nephropathy, there are no accurate predictors of renal risk. Renal biopsy may serve this role by indicating those patients who are developing significant lesions during the “silent” phase of the disease. In large measure, this value of the biopsy derives from evidence that the lesions tend to develop linearly over time and can be measured by techniques that are relatively easily established in standard surgical pathology environments. Renal biopsies can serve to assure the majority of diabetic patients that they are developing serious lesions slowly, if at all. Those developing significant lesions can be selected for more aggressive treatment, such as more precise glycemic control and early intervention with anti hypertensive drugs. Further, clinical trials at the earlier stages of nephropathy can have much increased statistical power with the inclusion of renal biopsy studies.
- renal biopsy