Rates of chronic kidney disease (CKD) among Indigenous groups in Australia exceed non-Indigenous rates eight-fold. Using kidney volume as a surrogate for nephron number, we carried out a study to determine if Indigenous neonates have a smaller kidney volume (and thus a reduced nephron number) from birth compared with non-Indigenous neonates. We recruited term and preterm neonates (<32 weeks) at a tertiary care neonatal unit over a 12 months period. Preterm neonates were assessed (renal sonography and renal function measurement) at 32 weeks corrected age (CA) and again at 38 weeks CA when blood pressure was also measured. All term neonates were assessed in the first post-natal week, including renal sonography, renal function and blood pressure measurement. The primary outcome measured was total kidney volume (TKV) and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) was a secondary outcome. Data was available for 44 preterm (11 Indigenous) and 39 term (13 Indigenous) neonates. TKV of Indigenous neonates was significantly lower at 32 weeks [12.0 (2.0) v. 15.4 (5.1) ml; P=0.03] and 38 weeks CA [18.6 (4.0) v. 22.6 (5.9) ml; P=0.04] respectively. Term Indigenous neonates also had smaller kidney volumes compared with non-Indigenous neonates. Despite a smaller kidney volume (and reduced nephron number), Indigenous neonates did not have a significantly lower eGFR. Indigenous neonates achieve similar eGFRs to Non-Indigenous neonates, presumably through a higher single nephron filtration rate. This places Indigenous neonates at a greater risk of long-term kidney damage later in life.
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