What is chronic kidney disease (CKD) in children?

Updated: Jul 21, 2020
  • Author: Sanjeev Gulati, MD, MBBS, DNB(Peds), DM, DNB(Neph), FIPN(Australia), FICN, FRCPC(Canada); Chief Editor: Craig B Langman, MD  more...
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Chronic kidney disease (CKD) and renal failure (RF) have been recognized as significant medical problems for most of the last 2 centuries and, until relatively recently, were uniformly fatal. Scientific and technologic improvements during the second half of the 20th century provided renal replacement therapy as a life-sustaining option for many individuals who otherwise may have died. The impact of these medical advancements has been remarkable.

Chronic kidney disease is characterized by an irreversible deterioration of renal function that gradually progresses to end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Chronic kidney disease has emerged as a serious public health problem. Data from the United States Renal Data System (USRDS) show that incidence of kidney failure is rising among adults and is commonly associated with poor outcomes and high cost. [1]  Moreover, in the past 2 decades, the incidence of chronic kidney disease in children has steadily increased, with poor and ethnic minority children disproportionately affected. [1]

Children, adolescents, and young adults constitute less than 5% of the end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) population, and their 10-year survival ranges from 70% to 85%. [1, 2]  Although children represent only a small proportion of all patients with CKD, affected children pose unique challenges to the health care system and to their providers, who must address not only the primary renal disorder, but the many extrarenal manifestations of CKD that complicate management. [3, 4]  Most importantly, the development of ESRD compromises the life expectancy of affected patients, with an age-specific mortality rate for children receiving dialysis that is 30 to 150 times higher than for healthy peers. 

The major health consequences of chronic kidney disease include not only progression to kidney failure but also an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Evidence-based clinical practice guidelines support early recognition and treatment of chronic kidney disease–related complications to improve growth and development and, ultimately, the quality of life in children with this chronic condition. Appropriate pediatric care may reduce the prevalence of this complex and expensive condition.

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