Background Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a well-established risk factor for hypertension and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. More recently, OSA has been implicated as an independent risk factor for chronic kidney disease. Urinary neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) is a well-accepted early biomarker of subclinical kidney tubular injury, preceding an increase in serum creatinine. The goal of this study was to determine if an association exists between OSA and increased urinary NGAL levels. Methods We prospectively enrolled adult patients from the sleep clinic of an academic medical center. Each underwent polysomnography and submitted a urine specimen upon enrollment. We measured NGAL and creatinine levels on all urine samples before participants received treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), and, in a subset of OSA patients, after CPAP therapy. We compared the urinary NGAL/creatinine ratio between untreated participants with and without OSA, and within a subset of 11 OSA patients also after CPAP therapy. Results A total of 49 subjects were enrolled: 16 controls based on an apnea-hypopnea index (events with at least 4% oxygen desaturation; AHI-4%) <5 events/hour (mean AHI-4% = 0.59 +/- 0.60); 33 OSA patients based on an AHI-4% >5 events/hour (mean AHI-4% = 43.3 +/- 28.1). OSA patients had a higher mean body-mass index than the control group (36.58 +/- 11.02 kg/m2 vs. 26.81 +/- 6.55 kg/m2, respectively; p = 0.0005) and were more likely to be treated for hypertension (54.5% vs. 6.25% of group members, respectively; p = 0.0014). The groups were otherwise similar in demographics, and there was no difference in the number of diabetic subjects or in the mean serum creatinine concentration (control = 0.86 +/- 0.15 mg/dl, OSA = 0.87 +/- 0.19 mg/dl; p = 0.7956). We found no difference between the urinary NGAL-to-creatinine ratios among untreated OSA patients versus control subjects (median NGAL/creatinine = 6.34 ng/mg vs. 6.41 ng/mg, respectively; p = 0.4148). Furthermore, CPAP therapy did not affect the urinary NGAL-to-creatinine ratio (p = 0.7758 for two-tailed, paired t-test). Conclusions In this prospective case-control study comparing patients with severe, hypoxic OSA to control subjects, all with normal serum creatinine, we found no difference between urinary levels of NGAL. Furthermore, CPAP therapy did not change these levels pre- and post-treatment.
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