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Inclusion and definition of acute renal dysfunction in critically ill patients in randomized controlled trials: a systematic review



In evidence-based medicine, multicenter, prospective, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are the gold standard for evaluating treatment benefits and ensuring the effectiveness of interventions. Patient-centered outcomes, such as mortality, are most often the preferred evaluated outcomes. While there is currently agreement on how to classify renal dysfunction in critically ill patients , the application frequency of this new classification system in RCTs has not previously been evaluated. In this study, we aim to assess the definition of renal dysfunction in multicenter RCTs involving critically ill patients that included mortality as a primary endpoint.


A comprehensive search was conducted for publications reporting multicenter randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving adult patients in intensive care units (ICUs) that included mortality as a primary outcome. MEDLINE and PUBMED were queried for relevant articles in core clinical journals published between May 2004 and December 2017.


Of 418 articles reviewed, 46 multicenter RCTs with a primary endpoint related to mortality were included. Thirty-six (78.3%) of the trial reports provided information on renal function in the participants. Only seven articles (15.2%) included mean or median serum creatinine levels, mean creatinine clearance or estimated glomerular filtration rates. Sequential organ failure assessment (SOFA) score was the most commonly used definition of renal dysfunction (20 studies; 43.5%). Risk, Injury, Failure, Loss, End-stage renal disease (RIFLE), Acute Kidney Injury Network (AKIN) and Kidney Disease Improving Global Outcomes (KDIGO) criteria were used in five (10.9%) trials. In thirteen trials (28.3%), no renal dysfunction criteria were reported. Only one trial excluded patients with renal dysfunction, and it used urinary output or need for renal replacement therapy (RRT) as criteria for this diagnosis.


The presence of renal dysfunction was included as a baseline patient characteristic in most RCTs. The RIFLE, AKIN and KDIGO classification systems were infrequently used; renal dysfunction was generally defined using the SOFA score.

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