Spot urinary citrate-to-creatinine ratio is a marker for acid-base status in chronic kidney disease

Fabiola G. Gianella, Victor E. Prado, John R. Poindexter, Beverley Adams-Huet, Xilong Li, R. Tyler Miller, Khashayar Sakhaee, Naim M. Maalouf, Orson W. Moe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Due to multiple compensating mechanisms, the serum bicarbonate concentration is a relatively insensitive marker of acid-base status; especially in chronic kidney disease (CKD). This is a major drawback that impairs the ability to diagnose acid excess or monitor alkali therapy. We postulated that it is more logical to measure the compensatory defense mechanism(s) rather than the defended parameter, which remains normal if the compensation is successful. Therefore, a retrospective cross-sectional study was performed in 1733 stone formers along with a prospective cross-sectional study of 22 individuals with normal kidney function and 50 patients in different stages of CKD. While serum bicarbonate was flat and did not fall below the reference range until near CKD stage 5, citrate excretion (24-hour urinary citrate excretion rate; urinary citrate-to-creatinine ratio, in the retrospective analysis, and spot urinary citrate-to-creatinine ratio in the prospective study) progressively and significantly declined starting from CKD stage 2. Following an acute acid load in 25 participants with a wide range of estimated glomerular filtration rates, the urinary citrate-to-creatinine ratio inversely and significantly associated with acid accumulation, whereas serum bicarbonate did not. We compared changes in serum bicarbonate and urinary citrate-to-creatinine ratio in response to alkali therapy in patients with CKD stage 3 or 4 started on potassium citrate in our kidney stone database. With alkali therapy, there was no change in serum bicarbonate, but the urinary citrate-to-creatinine ratio rose consistently in all patients adherent to potassium citrate therapy. Thus, the urinary citrate-to-creatinine ratio (the defense mechanism) is a potential easily implementable, pragmatic, and a superior parameter to serum bicarbonate (the defended entity) to assess acid-base status, and monitor alkali therapy. Additional studies are needed before a clinical test can be devised.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-217
Number of pages10
JournalKidney international
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • acid-base status
  • alkali
  • bicarbonate
  • chronic kidney disease
  • citrate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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