What is renal function (kidney function)? What does GFR mean?
Your health care team may talk about the work your kidneys do in terms of "kidney function". If you have two healthy kidneys, you have 100 percent of your kidney function. This is more than you really need. Some people are born with only one kidney and are still able to live a normal and healthy life. Many people donate a kidney for transplantation to a family member or friend and continue to have a relatively normal kidney function. Small declines in renal function do not necessarily cause a problem.1
However, many people with reduced kidney function have a kidney disease that will worsen over time. Serious health problems occur when kidney function declines to less than 25 percent. If it drops below 10 to 15 percent, a person cannot live long without some form of renal replacement therapy - either dialysis or transplantation.1,2
One common measure of kidney function is the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). GFR describes how many milliliters of blood the kidneys are able to filter within one minute. The normal value is 90 ml/min or higher. Often you will see GFR values with the unit ml/min/1.73 m2, because technically, GFR is expressed in relation to body surface area, which averages 1.73 m2. If your GFR is too low, your kidneys may not be able to remove enough wastes and extra water from your blood. Your GFR can be estimated from a routine measurement of creatinine in your blood. Creatinine is a waste product formed by the normal breakdown of muscle cells; the amount of creatinine correlates with kidney function.1,2
If you know your current blood creatinine level, you can use our GFR Calculator to estimate your kidney function.
The GFR is used for defining the stages of chronic kidney disease.
- National Kidney Foundation https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/gfr (Accessed 15.2.19)
- Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes (KDIGO) CKD Work Group (2013): KDIGO 2012 Clinical Practice Guideline for the Evaluation and Management of Chronic Kidney Disease. In: Kidney Int Suppl 3, S. 1–150