Chronic Kidney Disease Screening: Is It Worth It?

Robert Jonathan

Chronic kidney disease affects approximately one in eight Americans and some 82,000 die from it each year. Some scientists nonetheless are questioning whether screening for the illness makes sense.

In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers claim that blood and urine testing for chronic kidney disease may not be valuable because, for one thing, no clinical trials have ever established the effectiveness of such screening. There has also not been any clinical trials to determine whether routine monitoring for chronic kidney disease actually contributes to life expectancy.

Study leader Dr. Howard Fink told Reuters that his team's review of existing research did not necessarily conclude that screening for chronic kidney disease is out of bounds. "The bottom line is that it's uncertain," he said, because of the lack of studies establishing either the benefits or harm of widespread screening.

Fink also pointed that false positives sometimes occur in such testing could also lead to needless and possibly invasive testing, which drives up the costs of healthcare even more. Moreover, Fink says, "only a small percentage of people with early [kidney] disease will actually progress to end-stage kidney failure." Once that occurs, dialysis or a kidney transplant become the primary options.

It is interesting to note that the area between the kidneys in the lower back is considered an important energy center in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is called the Ming Men, or "life gate."

The kidneys are critically important organs that filter out toxins from the body. Risk factors for chronic kidney disease include high blood pressure and diabetes.