The serum creatinine concentration is widely interpreted as a measure of the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and is used as an index of renal function in clinical practice. Glomerular filtration of creatinine, however, is only one of the variables that determines its concentration in serum. Alterations in renal handling and metabolism of creatinine and methodological interferences in its measurement may have a profound impact on the serum concentration of creatinine. We review the fundamental principles of physiology, metabolism, and analytical chemistry that are necessary to correctly interpret the serum creatinine concentration. These principles are then applied to important clinical circumstances, including aging, pregnancy, diabetes mellitus, drug administration, and acute and chronic renal failure. Despite numerous limitations, serum creatinine remains a useful clinical tool, but more accurate measures of renal function are frequently necessary.
- © 1992 The American Association for Clinical Chemistry