Creatinine is a waste product that normally functioning kidneys excrete from your body through the urine. If damage to the cells of your kidneys occurs suddenly, it can cause high levels of creatinine to build up in your blood. A serum creatinine test involves measuring the level in your blood to get an idea of how your kidneys are functioning. 

An abnormal serum creatinine test may indicate a condition of acute kidney injury. However, a study by Columbia University suggests that diagnoses of AKI based on serum creatinine may not be accurate, and you may receive inappropriate treatment as a result. 

How do creatinine tests lead to misdiagnoses? 

Kidney damage at the cellular is one possible cause for an elevated creatinine level. However, there are other potential causes, such as dehydration, that may resolve with time. Serum creatinine is only one diagnostic factor used to assess kidney function, and it is most useful when multiple tests show the overall creatinine level over several days. 

However, researchers suggest that some nephrologists may give a single elevated serum creatinine test too much weight due to the pressure of treating many critical kidney patients in a short amount of time. 

How can a misdiagnosis of kidney symptoms affect you? 

If your elevated creatinine is due to kidney damage and your doctor treats you for dehydration, this can cause complications such as pulmonary edema. On the other hand, if it is due to dehydration and you do not receive the necessary rehydration therapy, irreversible kidney damage can result. 

How can doctors prevent misdiagnosis? 

As part of the study, researchers sought to discover proteins that could act as biomarkers distinguishing between dehydration and AKI as a cause of abnormal serum creatinine. They discovered over 1,000 unique biomarkers when conducting tests on mice.