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Critical appraisal of the top-down approach for vesicoureteral reflux


Vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) has been linked to recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs), renal scarring, hypertension, renal insufficiency and end-stage kidney disease. Different imaging strategies have been proposed to approach children presenting with UTI to sort out patients with significant VUR while minimizing patient morbidity, radiation exposure and financial burden. None of these imaging strategies is universally accepted. The"top-down approach" (TDA) aims at restricting the number of voiding cystourethrograms (VCUGs) and its associated morbidity while identifying patients with clinically-significant reflux. In this approach, children presenting with febrile UTIs are acutely investigated with dimercapto-succinic acid (DMSA) renal scans to identify patients with renal parenchymal inflammation. Those with evidence of renal affection are offered VCUG and late DMSA scan to identify VUR and permanent renal scarring, respectively. Although TDA could identify clinically-significant VUR with high sensitivity, it is not without limitations. The approach segregates patients based on the presence of DMSA cortical lesions omitting the morbidity and the economic burden of UTI. Additionally, some of DMSA lesions are attributed to congenital dysplasia and unrelated to UTI. Ionizing radiation exposure, financial costs, limited availability of DMSA scans in the acute setting, variability in interpreting the results and low yield of actionable findings on DMSA scans are some other limitations. In this review, we tried to address the drawbacks of the TDA and reinforce the value of patient-centered approach for VUR.

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