Blood urea nitrogen/creatinine ratio identifies a high-risk but potentially reversible form of renal dysfunction in patients with decompensated heart failure

Brisco, M.A.; Coca, S.G.; Chen, J.; Owens, A.T.; McCauley, B.D.; Kimmel, S.E.; Testani, J.M.

CIRCULATION. Heart Failure 6(2): 233-239


ISSN/ISBN: 1941-3297
PMID: 23325460
DOI: 10.1161/circheartfailure.112.968230
Accession: 036814957

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Identifying reversible renal dysfunction (RD) in the setting of heart failure is challenging. The goal of this study was to evaluate whether elevated admission blood urea nitrogen/creatinine ratio (BUN/Cr) could identify decompensated heart failure patients likely to experience improvement in renal function (IRF) with treatment. Consecutive hospitalizations with a discharge diagnosis of heart failure were reviewed. IRF was defined as ≥20% increase and worsening renal function as ≥20% decrease in estimated glomerular filtration rate. IRF occurred in 31% of the 896 patients meeting eligibility criteria. Higher admission BUN/Cr was associated with in-hospital IRF (odds ratio, 1.5 per 10 increase; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.3-1.8; P<0.001), an association persisting after adjustment for baseline characteristics (odds ratio, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.1-1.8; P=0.004). However, higher admission BUN/Cr was also associated with post-discharge worsening renal function (odds ratio, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.1-1.8; P=0.011). Notably, in patients with an elevated admission BUN/Cr, the risk of death associated with RD (estimated glomerular filtration rate <45) was substantial (hazard ratio, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.6-3.1; P<0.001). However, in patients with a normal admission BUN/Cr, RD was not associated with increased mortality (hazard ratio, 1.2; 95% CI, 0.67-2.0; P=0.59; p interaction=0.03). An elevated admission BUN/Cr identifies decompensated patients with heart failure likely to experience IRF with treatment, providing proof of concept that reversible RD may be a discernible entity. However, this improvement seems to be largely transient, and RD, in the setting of an elevated BUN/Cr, remains strongly associated with death. Further research is warranted to develop strategies for the optimal detection and treatment of these high-risk patients.