The incidence of acute kidney injury (AKI) has been increasing in recent years, but this serious health condition remains challenging to diagnose and manage. Conventional testing is typically performed in the hospital or reference laboratories, but there is a serious need to enable triage-type testing that would help first responders make key decisions about where to transport high-risk patients.
According to an analysis performed by researchers at the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, there were nearly 4 million hospitalizations associated with AKI during 2014 in this country alone. That’s more than double the number seen in 2006, which was near twice the number logged in 2000.
While diabetes is an established risk factor for acute kidney injury, patients without diabetes are seeing sharp increases in AKI rates as well. Studies in other countries have reported similar findings, suggesting a widespread trend for the increasing occurrence of acute kidney injury.
Acute kidney injury has also become a significant health challenge for deployed military personnel. A test that helps identify AKI on the battlefield could have major implications where at-risk personnel could be diverted to facilities that are appropriately equipped to manage renal dysfunction.
Without rapid results in the field or en route to treatment facilities, there is a significant risk that AKI cases may progress—resulting in serious system damage or death.
Acute kidney injury, defined as a sudden reduction in kidney function with or without the onset of kidney damage or failure, typically occurs over the course of a few hours or a couple of days.
It can be brought on by a range of health conditions — from sepsis to heart attack to cancer — but can also result from a bodily trauma, such as being in a car accident, or from taking certain medications that can be toxic to kidneys.
One of the reasons this condition can be so challenging to diagnose is that symptoms tend to be non-specific, and some patients can even appear completely asymptomatic. Typical symptoms can include decreased urine output, swelling in the legs or ankles, fatigue, confusion, nausea, chest pain, and shortness of breath.