Conference Coverage

Urine albumin testing is crucial for patients at risk for CKD, but drop the 24-hour urine test



– Whatever you do, don’t order a 24-hour urine test. Do encourage “pork holidays.” And choose between an ACE inhibitor and an ARB – don’t give them both to a single patient, according to Kim Zuber, PA-C, MS, a nephrology physician assistant from St. Petersburg, Fla., in a presentation about kidney disease, hypertension, and diabetes at the Metabolic & Endocrine Disease Summit, sponsored by Global Academy for Medical Education.

Kim Zuber, PAC, a St. Petersburg, Fla., nephrology physician assistant

Kim Zuber

Ms. Zuber, who is the executive director of the American Academy of Nephrology PAs and the outreach chair of the National Kidney Foundation, outlined some approaches for the diagnosis, management, and treatment of chronic kidney disease (CKD) with comorbid hypertension and diabetes.

  • Use the right urine test. Urine albumin testing, which detects albuminuria, is vital in patients who are at risk of chronic kidney disease, Ms. Zuber said, although it’s often not performed. In fact, research suggests that most Medicare patients with diabetes, hypertension, or both do not have this test, she said. Order a urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UACR) test at least once a year in at-risk patients, she recommended, and more frequently if they show signs of abnormal values. But be aware, she said, some labs might refer to the test as microalbuminuria instead of UACR, and be prepared to calculate the UACR yourself if your institution provides only albumin and creatinine levels. Also watch out for mix-ups regarding UACR measurements. Nephrotic-range proteinuria starts at 3 g/dL or 3,000 mg/dL, she said, and residents often confuse those two sets of units. “Many have gotten in trouble with that,” she said.
  • Don’t go near a 24-hour urine test. Thinking about ordering a 24-hour urine test that requires a patients to collect all their urine for a day? Think again. “We’ve been telling you almost 20 years not to do this,” Ms. Zuber said. These tests “are unreliable, and they don’t work.”
  • Don’t focus on tight blood pressure control. Studies provide little insight into the ideal blood pressure readings for patients with diabetes and CKD, according to Ms. Zuber, but some findings suggest that tight control can be harmful to the kidneys. She urges her patients to treat hypertension in part by embracing lifestyle change. “I tell them that if you improve your lifestyle, you can give up one of your drugs. When they average 15 drugs a day, that becomes popular.” Physical activity, the DASH diet, salt restriction, moderate alcohol consumption, weight loss, stress reduction, and smoking cessation can all lower blood pressure, she added.
  • Talk up the “pork holiday.” For patients with hypertension, “sodium restriction is huge,” Ms. Zuber said, especially among black patients. She urges her patients to take “pork holidays”, that is, eat pork only four times a year, on holidays such as the Fourth of July. She also urges them to prepare food in ways that begin with B, as in bake, boil, and barbecue. “You’ll notice that ‘fry’ doesn’t start with a B.”
  • Try an ACE inhibitor or an ARB, but not both. In patients with hypertension plus diabetes and/or CKD, Ms. Zuber suggests using an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor or angiotensin receptor blockers, but not both. One or the other can improve albuminuria, she said, but together they can boost risk of CKD, hyperkalemia, and hypotension.

Consider factors such as formularies and personal experience when trying to decide which drug to use, she said. If a patient still has hypertension, consider a diuretic and then move to a calcium channel or beta blocker. However, she cautioned, although beta blockers, they can cause erectile dysfunction.

Global Academy for Medical Education and this news organization are owned by the same parent company. Ms. Zuber reported no disclosures.

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