Research could reduce healthcare disparities by making kidney disease diagnosis and treatment more equitable

July 27, 2022
New Findings to Be highlighted at the 2022 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting.

New research shows that removing a race modifier from a formula used to diagnose kidney disease could lead to more equitable care for Black patients.

This study and a second that examines how this same diagnostic approach impacts Asian patients will be presented at the 2022 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo.

One of the standard ways to diagnose kidney disease is by estimating glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) with a mathematical formula. Race has long been used as a variable in eGFR equations because researchers and clinicians mistakenly believed that Black people have higher muscle mass and/or creatinine metabolism than White people. The formula most widely used to determine eGFR, the Chronic Kidney Disease Epidemiology Collaboration equation (CKD-EPI), includes variables for serum creatinine, gender, race, and age. However, the National Kidney Foundation and the American Society of Nephrology now recommend that clinical laboratories use a revised CKD-EPI refit formula developed in 2021 for assessing kidney function that does not include a race modifier. Two studies discussed at 2022 AACC set out to determine how effective this new formula is.

Researchers at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center and Parkland Health, Dallas, led by Ibrahim Hashim, PhD, examined serum creatinine values of 56,676 patients over a 16-month timeframe and estimated eGFR using the previous CKD-EPI formula and the new CKD-EPI refit formula. After removing the race adjustment, 14% to 28% of Black patients were reclassified into a more severe chronic kidney disease stage.

Based on these results, the researchers support removing race as a factor in eGFR equations, noting that it perpetuates systemic racism and discrimination in healthcare, and that its removal will provide more equitable care and reduce healthcare disparities. UT Southwestern began using the new formula in May, noted Hashim.

Researchers at several different medical schools and hospitals in Korea also assessed the new 2021 CKD-EPI equation in a Korean population, as very few studies have evaluated the new equation’s performance in Asian patients. The researchers compared eGFR results from 1,899 people with results from chromium-51-ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid GFR measurements (the gold standard for determining GFR). Interestingly, they found that the mean bias of the 2021 CKD-EPI refit formula was significantly greater than that of the original CKD-EPI formula when comparing test results for both males and females.

AACC release