Saudi Journal of Kidney Diseases and Transplantation

: 2012  |  Volume : 23  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 1109--1114

A retrospective review of diabetic nephropathy patients during referral to the sub-urban nephrology clinic

Rena Menon1, Fariz Safhan Mohd Noor2, Che Rosle Draman3, Mohd Ramli Seman2, Azril Shahreez Abdul Ghani2,  
1 Hospital Sultan Ahmad Shah, Pahang, Malaysia
2 Hospital Tengku Ampuan Afzaan, Pahang, Malaysia
3 International Islamic University Malaysia, Pahang, Malaysia

Correspondence Address:
Che Rosle Draman
Department of Internal Medicine, Kulliyyah of Medicine, International Islamic University Malaysia, P.O. Box 141, Jalan Hospital 25700, Kuantan


Diabetic nephropathy (DN) has become the most common cause of end-stage renal failure. Early referral and specific nephrology treatment could delay the disease progression and should reduce the treatment cost, mortality and morbidity rate in these patients. This is a single-center, retrospective review of all DN patients referred to the nephrology clinic in Hospital Sultan Ahmad Shah, Temerloh, from 2000 to 2009, to study and define the clinical characteristics of DN patients at the time of the referral to the nephrology clinic. A total of 75 patient case records were reviewed. Forty-three (57.3%) of them were males, with a median age of 64.3 ± 8.5 years at the time of referral. Only 14.7% of them had blood pressure lower than 125/75 mmHg. Co-morbid and disease-related complications were also commonly diagnosed and 28.4% (n = 21) had ischemic heart disease, 23% (n = 17) had diabetic retinopathy and 20.3% (n = 15) had diabetic neuropathy. The mean serum creatinine at the time of referral was 339.8 ± 2.3 μmol/L, gylcated hemoglobin A 1c (HbA1C) was 8.1 ± 2.0 %, serum fasting glucose was 9.6 ± 4.7 mmol/L, serum cholesterol was 5.4 ± 1.2 mmol/L and hemoglobin level was 10.6 ± 2.9 g/dL. Although female patients were less frequently seen in the early stages of chronic kidney disease (CKD), they comprised at least 72.7% of CKD stage 5 (male:female; 6:16, P <0.05). Twenty-nine percent (n=22) of them were referred at CKD stage 5, 48% (n=36) were at CKD stage 4, 17.3% (n=13) were at CKD stage 3, 4% (n=3) were at CKD stage 2 and 1.3% (n=1) was at CKD stage 1. Advanced CKD patients were frequently prescribed with more antihypertensives. CKD stage 5 patients were prescribed with two-and-half types of antihypertensive as compared to two types of anti-hypertensive in CKD stage 2 and stage 3. Furthermore, ACE-inhibitors (ACE-I) were less frequently prescribed to them. Only 22.7% (n=5) of CKD stage 5 patients received ACE-I and 30% (n=11) in CKD stage 4 patients as compared to 53.4% (n=7) in CKD patients stage 3. This review shows that DN patients were referred late to the nephrologists and the overall disease management was suboptimal. Antihypertensive requirement was also increased and ACEIs were less frequently pres­cribed in the advanced diabetic nephropathy patients.

How to cite this article:
Menon R, Mohd Noor FS, Draman CR, Seman M, Ghani AA. A retrospective review of diabetic nephropathy patients during referral to the sub-urban nephrology clinic.Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl 2012;23:1109-1114

How to cite this URL:
Menon R, Mohd Noor FS, Draman CR, Seman M, Ghani AA. A retrospective review of diabetic nephropathy patients during referral to the sub-urban nephrology clinic. Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl [serial online] 2012 [cited 2022 Jan 17 ];23:1109-1114
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Full Text


Diabetes mellitus is highly prevalent in Malaysia. According to the Malaysian National Health Morbidity Survey III (NHMS III, 2006), it has increased from 7% to 11.6%. [1] The high prevalence rate was due to various socio-eco­nomic, dietary and personal factors. Diabetic kidney disease is also the most common cause of end-stage renal failure (ESRF) in our population. Our local data revealed that diabetic nephropathy (DN) was the underlying cause in 45-50% of dialysis patients. [2] In addition to nephropathy, these patients were also frequently diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy and neuropathy.

Despite many trials that have shown the cli­nical benefit of intensified diabetic control, its management remains sub-optimum. [3],[4] Adequate glucose control prevents diabetic complica­tions and retards its progression. Various medications are currently available for its renoprotective effect, yet their use is still limited.

Apart from that, DN patients has high risk for rapid renal function deterioration and various cardio-vascular diseases. Hence, their optimal management approach should include optimal care of co-morbid diseases, such as hyper­tension and hypercholesterolemia, which will lead to a reduction in cardiovascular event rate.

Despite well-controlled glucose level, a large number of them will develop advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD), and unless they are treated early, many will either succumb to cardiovascular disease or require regular dia­lysis. Unfortunately, most of the diabetic pa­tients are still referred late to nephrologists.

This single-center, retrospective review of DN patients referred to the nephrology clinic in one of the sub-urban, public hospitals was aimed to study and define the clinical charac­teristics of the patients during their referral. Overall management of the co-morbid diseases was also reviewed.

 Materials and Methods

This is a single-center, retrospective review of all DN patients who were referred to the Nephrology Clinic, Hospital Sultan Ahmad Shah, Temerloh, from 2000 to 2009. The de­mographic, clinical and laboratory data were extracted from patient clinical notes. Their co-morbid and other diabetes-related conditions were also recorded. Blood pressure less than 130/80 mmHg during the visit was considered optimal. The optimal blood glucose and choles­terol levels were defined according to the local guidelines. Their glomerular filtration rate was then estimated according to the Cockroft-Gault formula. The stage of CKD of each patient was then classified according to the NKF-KDOQI classification system. Antihypertensive prescriptions, especially with ACE-inhi­bitor, were identified for each patient. All the data were recorded and analyzed using SPSS ver. 17.0. Continuous variables were analyzed using the Student T test or Mann-Whitney U test, and categorical variables were analyzed with the chi-square test. P-values less than 0.05 were considered significant.


A total of 75 patients were reviewed [Table 1]. Forty-three of them were males and 32 were females. Their mean age was 64.3 ± 8.5 years, and ranged from 42 to 80 years. Only a few patients (14.7%) had blood pressure less than 125/75 mmHg. Co-morbid illnesses and disease-related complications were frequently found during the referral, and 32% (n = 24) had hyperuricemia, 28.4% (n = 21) had ischemic heart disease, 23% (n = 17) had diabetic retinopathy and 20.3% (n = 15) had diabetic neuropathy. At the time of the visit, serum creatinine was 339.8 ± 2.3 μmol/L and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) was 8.3 ± 2.0%, with fasting blood glucose of 9.6 ± 4.7 mmol/L. Their hemoglo­bin was 10.6 ± 2.9 g/dL and the total cholesterol was 5.5 ± 1.3 mmol/L. {Table 1}

As noted in [Figure 1], at the time of referral, 1.3% (n = 1) had CKD stage 1, 4% (n = 3) had CKD stage 2, 17.3% (n = 13) had CKD stage 3, 48% (n = 36) had CKD stage 4 and 29.3% (n = 22) had CKD stage 5. Among those with CKD stage 3 and stage 4 (n = 49), males out­numbered females with a 2:1 ratio. In contrast, 72.7% of the CKD stage 5 patients (n = 22) were females ([Figure 2], P <0.05).{Figure 1}{Figure 2}

Regardless of their CKD stage, the HbA1c and fasting blood sugar levels were not sig­nificantly different. CKD stage 1 to stage 3 patients had HbA1c and FBS of 7.8% and 9.8 mmol/L and CKD stage 4 and stage 5 patients had HbA1c and FBS of 7.8% and 9.7 mmol/L (P = NS), respectively. More antihypertensives were prescribed to those patients with advanced CKD. The CKD stage 2 and stage 3 patients required at least two anti-hypertensive drugs as compared with two or more in CKD patients of stage 5 [Figure 3]. They were also infrequently pres­cribed with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEi). Only 22.7% (n = 5) of CKD stage 5 patients received ACEi and 30% CKD stage 4 patients received ACEi (n = 11) as compared with 53.4% patients (n = 7) in CKD stage 3 [Figure 4].{Figure 3}{Figure 4}


DN patients comprised at least one-third of all patients attending the nephrology clinics. However, it has become the most common cause of ESRF among dialysis-dependent pa­tients in Malaysia. Many guidelines are avai­lable, yet DN patients were frequently referred late. [5],[6],[7] Recently updated local guidelines indi­cated that DN patients with serum creatinine at least 200 μmol/L should be referred to the nephrologist. Yet, our patients were seen in the clinic with creatinine of 339.8 μmol/L, far beyond the stated level. In fact, 77.3% of them had CKD stage 4 and stage 5. Various reasons for the late referral were identified and include lack of awareness on the disease progression, some stayed far away from the hospital and the wide hospital catchment area worsened the situation. Late referral to the nephrology clinic is com­mon. The NECOSAD study group also found that at least one-third of their patients, both diabetic and non-diabetic, were referred late. [8] The European countries, USA, Australia and South America had estimated its frequency in their patients since 1996, and at least 30% were late referrals and it was associated with higher mortality, morbidity and treatment cost. [9]

Despite the diagnosis of diabetes mellitus, our patients were still inadequately managed. Their HbA1c level was 8.1%, while the Ma­laysia guideline regarded 6.5% as the optimal level. Further analysis revealed that diabetic control in our patients was not significantly different between the CKD stages. Overall nu­tritional state, dietary intake and their clinical status were among the important reasons un­derlying the finding. Presently, many clinical trials are available to demonstrate the benefit of strict glucose control and stabilization or even reversal of DN. [10],[11]

A post hoc analysis of RENAAL study pa­tients also clearly demonstrated that an intensi­fied treatment protocol prevents diabetic kidney disease progression. In the study, those pa­tients who had an intensive and well-struc­tured care experienced slower disease prog­ression rate regardless of their treatment group. Further extrapolation of the study fin­dings estimated that these patients might delay their dialysis by 16.5-100.8 months after recruitment. [12]

Apart from that, our patients' co-morbid ill­nesses were under-treated, especially their blood pressure and serum lipid levels, which were far beyond the acceptable target. Nume­rous evidences are currently available to de­monstrate that DN patients were at the highest risk for any cardiovascular event. Hence, their blood pressure, glucose and lipid levels should be aggressively treated. The STENO 2 group had demonstrated that a well-controlled blood pressure, HbA1c, cholesterol, triglyceride and frequent use of ACEi and aspirin reduced the risk for cardiovascular disease by 53%, DN by 61%, retinopathy by 58% and autonomic neu­ropathy by 63%. [13] Not only that, a preliminary report from SHARP trial group concluded that lipid treatment in ESRF patients was asso­ciated with better outcomes. Unfortunately, only 14.7% of our newly referred patients achieved optimal blood pressure control, and their cho­lesterol level was also beyond the target.

As noted in this study, advanced CKD pa­tients required more antihypertensives compared with their counterparts. The CKD stage 5 pa­tients required at least two and half (2.5) types of antihypertensives, whereas CKD stage 2 and stage 3 patients required two (2). Treat­ment with ACEi was also limited due to the concern of hyperkalemia and worsening serum creatinine, especially in advanced diabetic kid­ney disease patients. These concerns are some­times true, but are probably over-emphasized.

To our surprise, these patients had an ade­quate hemoglobin level during the referral. Their mean hemoglobin was at least 10 g/dL, and many studies in both dialysis-dependent and non- dialysis dependent patients showed that normalization of the hemoglobin was not required. In fact, normalization of hemoglobin level could increase the risks for cardiovas­cular events. [14],[15]

This review was adversely affected by some limitations. Limited number of patients and retrospective review of clinical data may be predisposed to selection bias, and some of the data were unavailable for detailed review. The patients were not truly representative of the general population as some of the early referrals were not recorded properly and even discharged early.

However, this study demonstrated that our diabetic patients were referred late. Not only that, their co-morbid diseases were not opti­mally managed and ACEi were less frequently prescribed due to some clinical concerns. There­fore, we strongly recommend that the doctors should establish early contact with the nephrologist and timely refer them. Their co-morbid illnesses should be aggressively treated and use of ACEi and other RAAS blockade drugs should be the standard practice, and frequent review of these patients for any adverse event is mandatory.


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