Could measurement of urinary albumin-protein ratio be useful in my patient with renal insufficiency and proteinuria?

A spot urine test for determination of albumin-protein ratio (uAPR) may be useful in distinguishing glomerular vs tubulointerstitial source of proteinuria. A low (<0.4) uAPR, defined as urinary albumin to creatinine ratio(uACR)/urinary protein to creatinine ratio (uAPR) is more suggestive of a tubulointerstitial renal disease and less suggestive of glomerular pathology.1-3  

A 2012 study involving simultaneous measurements of urinary albumin and total protein in over 1000 proteinuric patients found a relatively high (0.84) area under curve (AUC) in a receiver operating characteristic curve analysis for uAPR (vs 0.74 for uACR and 0.54 for uPCR) in discriminating between tubular and non-tubular proteinuria pattern on urine protein electrophoresis and immunofixation. An uAPR cut-off of <0.4 was found to be 88% sensitive and 99% specific for the diagnosis of primary tubulointerstitial disorders on renal biopsy.1  

Due to the limitations of this study (including a relatively small subset of patient who had renal biopsy), a related editorial concluded that a low uAPR gives a “reasonable prediction of a tubular electrophoretic proteinuria”, but that it warrants further validation. Nevertheless, uAPR could potentially be useful in patients with moderate proteinuria (>300 mg/day to <3 g/day) who have not had renal biopsy and  where assessment of likelihood of tubulointerstitial vs glomerular source of proteinuria is desired.3 Interestingly, the utility of uAPR in predicting non-glomerular source of hematuria has also been reported.4

Bonus pearl: Did you know that the negatively-charged glomerular capillary wall repels negatively charged albumin thus preventing its filtration (charge-barrier) (5)?  

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  1. Smith ER, Cai MMX, McMahon LP, et al. The value of simultaneous measurement of urinary albumin and total protein in proteinuric patients. Nephrol Dial Transplant 2012;27:1534-41.
  2. Fraser SDS, Roderick PJ, McIntyre NJ, et al. Assessment of proteinuria in patients with chronic kidney disease stage 3: albuminuria and non-albumin proteinuria. PLOS ONE 2014;9:e98261.
  3. Ellam T, Nahas ME. Urinary albumin to protein ratio: more of the same or making a difference. Nephrol Dial Transplant 2012;27:1293-96.
  4. Ohisa N, Yoshida K, Matsuki R, et al. A comparison of urinary albumin-total protein ratio to phase-contrast microscopic examination of urine sediment for differentiating glomerular and nonglomerular bleeding. Am J Kidney Dis 2008;52:235-41.
  5. Venkat KK. Proteinuria and microalbuminuria in adults: significance, evaluation, and treatment. S Med J 2004;97:969-79.
Could measurement of urinary albumin-protein ratio be useful in my patient with renal insufficiency and proteinuria?

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