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Introduction: Obstetric-related acute kidney injury (AKI) is associated with adverse outcomes for mother and fetus, particularly in low-income countries. However, laboratory-independent tools to facilitate diagnosis are lacking. We assessed the diagnostic performance of a salivary urea nitrogen (SUN) dipstick to detect obstetric-related acute kidney disease in Malawi. Methods: Women at high risk for AKI admitted to an obstetric unit in Blantyre, Malawi, were recruited between 21 September and 11 December 2015. Patients underwent serum creatinine (SCr) testing alongside measurement of SUN using a dipstick on admission, and every 48 hours thereafter if evidence of kidney disease was found. Results: A total of 301 patients were included (mean age 25.9 years, 11% HIV positive). Of the patients, 23 (7.6%) had AKI, stage 1 in 47.8%, most commonly due to preeclampsia/eclampsia. Mean presenting SCr values were 108.8 ± 21.8 μmol/l (1.23 ± 0.25 mg/dl), 118 ± 34.45 μmol/l (1.33 ± 0.39 mg/dl), and 136.1 ± 30.4 μmol/l (1.54 ± 0.34 mg/dl) in AKI stages 1 to 3 respectively. SUN > 14 mg/dl had a sensitivity of 12.82% and a specificity of 97.33% to detect acute kidney disease; the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve was 0.551. In patients with normal SUN on admission, perinatal mortality was 11.8%, and was 25.0% if SUN was > 14 mg/dl (P = 0.18). Conclusion: The SUN dipstick was specific but insensitive when used to diagnose obstetric-related AKI. Limited biochemical derangement and low salivary urea concentrations due to physiological changes in pregnancy, as opposed to a technical limitation of the dipstick itself, are the likely reason for the lack of sensitivity in this study.

Original publication




Journal article


Kidney Int Rep

Publication Date





178 - 184


acute kidney disease, acute kidney injury, dipstick, pre-eclampsia, salivary urea nitrogen, sub-Saharan Africa