Creatinine Blood Test
Siamak T. Nabili, MD, MPH
Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
- What is creatinine?
- Why is it important to check blood creatinine levels?
- What are "normal" blood creatinine levels?
- What are the reasons for elevated blood creatinine?
- Are there any symptoms associated with elevated blood creatinine levels?
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What is creatinine?
Creatinine is a chemical waste molecule that is generated from muscle metabolism. Creatinine is produced from creatine, a molecule of major importance for energy production in muscles. Approximately 2% of the body's creatine is converted to creatinine every day. Creatinine is transported through the bloodstream to the kidneys. The kidneys filter out most of the creatinine and dispose of it in the urine.
Because the muscle mass in the body is relatively constant from day to day, the creatinine production normally remains essentially unchanged on a daily basis.
Why is it important to check blood creatinine levels?
The kidneys maintain the blood creatinine in a normal range. Creatinine has been found to be a fairly reliable indicator of kidney function. Elevated creatinine level signifies impaired kidney function or kidney disease.
As the kidneys become impaired for any reason, the creatinine level in the blood will rise due to poor clearance of creatinine by the kidneys. Abnormally high levels of creatinine thus warn of possible malfunction or failure of the kidneys. It is for this reason that standard blood tests routinely check the amount of creatinine in the blood.
A more precise measure of the kidney function can be estimated by calculating how much creatinine is cleared from the body by the kidneys. This is referred to as creatinine clearance and it estimates the rate of filtration by kidneys (glomerular filtration rate, or GFR). The creatinine clearance can be measured in two ways. It can be calculated by a formula using serum (blood) creatinine level, patient's weight, and age. Creatinine clearance can also be more directly measured by collecting a 24-hour urine sample.
Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) level is another indicator of kidney function. Urea is also a metabolic byproduct which can build up if kidney function is impaired. The BUN-to-creatinine ratio generally provides more precise information about kidney function and its possible underlying cause compared with creatinine level alone. BUN also increases with dehydration.
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