Acute tubular necrosis laboratory findings

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Chandrakala Yannam, MD [2]


CBC, urinalysis with sediment microscopy, urine electrolytes, osmolarity, serum electrolytes, blood urea nitrogen and serum creatinine, and urine dipstick are commonly performed in patients to evaluate acute tubular necrosis and other causes of acute renal failure. Urine sediment may show tubular epithelial cells and epithelial cell casts or brown muddy granular casts. Increased urine sodium concentration >40 mEq/L, urine fractional excretion of sodium greater than 2 percent along with elevated serum creatinine concentration at a rate greater than 0.3 mg/dL/day may be found in acute tubular necrosis. However, these tests may have some limitations.

Laboratory Findings

Patients with acute tubular necrosis may show following findings on laboratory tests. These include:

Test Findings
Urine sediment microscopy Muddy brown granular casts and epithelial cell casts
Urine sodium >40 mEq/L
Fractional excretion of sodium > 2%
Urine osmolarity <350 mosmol/kg
Serum creatinine Elevated
BUN Elevated
Urine/plasma creatinine ratio <20
Ratio of BUN/sr.creatinine 10 to 15:1
Urine/plasma urea nitrogen <3
Serum electrolytes Hyperkalemia (↑K)

Hyperphosphatemia (↑P)

Hyponatremia (↓Na)

Hypocalcemia (↓Ca)

Hypermagnesemia (↑Mg)


  1. Ostermann M, Joannidis M (September 2016). "Acute kidney injury 2016: diagnosis and diagnostic workup". Crit Care. 20 (1): 299. doi:10.1186/s13054-016-1478-z. PMC 5037640. PMID 27670788.
  2. Kanbay M, Kasapoglu B, Perazella MA (June 2010). "Acute tubular necrosis and pre-renal acute kidney injury: utility of urine microscopy in their evaluation- a systematic review". Int Urol Nephrol. 42 (2): 425–33. doi:10.1007/s11255-009-9673-3. PMID 19921458.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Miller TR, Anderson RJ, Linas SL, Henrich WL, Berns AS, Gabow PA, Schrier RW (July 1978). "Urinary diagnostic indices in acute renal failure: a prospective study". Ann. Intern. Med. 89 (1): 47–50. PMID 666184.
  4. Steiner RW (October 1984). "Interpreting the fractional excretion of sodium". Am. J. Med. 77 (4): 699–702. PMID 6486145.
  5. Satirapoj B, Kongthaworn S, Choovichian P, Supasyndh O (June 2016). "Electrolyte disturbances and risk factors of acute kidney injury patients receiving dialysis in exertional heat stroke". BMC Nephrol. 17 (1): 55. doi:10.1186/s12882-016-0268-9. PMC 4895821. PMID 27267762.

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