Glomerular filtration rate measurements in clinical trials

Andrew S. Levey*, Tom Greene, Mark D. Schluchter, Patricia A. Cleary, Paul E. Teschan, Rodney A. Lorenz, Mark E. Molitch, William E. Mitch, Carolyn Siebert, Phillip M. Hall, Michael W. Steffes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

226 Scopus citations


To assess the utility and precision of GFR measurements in multicenter trials, the test performance and variability of GFR were analyzed in 2.250 patients enrolled in 44 clinical centers participating in either the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease (MDRD) Study or the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT). GFR was measured as the renal clearance of [125I]iothalamate after an sc injection without epinephrine. The studies used similar protocols for obtaining blood and urine, training clinical center staff, and processing specimens in central laboratories. The performance of GFR measurements, assessed from adherence to protocol and quality control analyses, was excellent. The variability among the four clearance periods (intratest coefficient of variation [CV]) was acceptable; the median intratest CV for GFR was 9.4% in the MDRD Study and 11.7% in the DCCT. The pattern of decline in serum counts was better approximated by an exponential rather than a linear relationship. The cause of the intratest variability in GFR measurements was explored by univariate and multivariate analysis. The intratest CV was highest at the extremes of GFR. Among patients with a high GFR (>90 mL/min per 1.73 m2), most of whom were participants in the DCCT, the higher intratest GFR was due, in part, to a systematic decline in GFR during the test. Among patients with a very low GFR (<13 mL/min per 1.73 m2), technical difficulties in urine collections contributed substantially to the higher intratest CV. Other patient characteristics, including age, gender, weight, serum glucose, renal diagnosis, and use of diuretics, were not strongly correlated with the intratest CV. The precision of GFR measurements was assessed from the variability from measurement to measurement (intertest CV). Among MDRD Study subjects, in whom two measurements of GFR were performed over a 3-month interval, the median intertest CV was relatively low (6.3%) and was only weakly related to the intratest CV. Thus, GFR measurements are reasonably precise, even if the intratest CV is high. Given the relatively high intratest CV that is characteristic of GFR measurements, the estimate of GFR in an individual is more precise if multiple clearance periods, rather than a single period, are included. Similarly, the estimate of mean GFR for a population is also more precise if multiple clearance periods are included. In conclusion, by the use of standardized methods, an acceptable precision of GFR results can be obtained in multicenter trials. The same methods can be applied in clinical practice. The usefulness of GFR measurements in practice depends, in part, on the results of these and other ongoing clinical trials investigating therapeutic interventions to prevent the onset or retard the progression of renal disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1159-1171
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the American Society of Nephrology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1993


  • Chronic renal disease
  • Clinical trial
  • Diabetes
  • GFR
  • Renal function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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