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Diagnosis of End-stage Renal Disease (ESRD)

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Diagnosis of End-stage Renal Disease (ESRD)

The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Tests may include:

  • Blood tests to look for:
    • Glomerular filtration rate (GFR)—Measures how well the kidneys are filtering wastes. GFR drops as the kidneys fail.
    • Increase in wastes in the blood. Items measured may include creatine and urea. The amount of wastes in the blood goes higher as the kidneys fail.
    • Changes of substances in the blood that are normally controlled by the kidneys. This may include calcium, phosphorus, parathyroid hormone, blood electrolytes, and potassium.
  • Urine tests to look for:
    • Excess protein in the urine. Damaged kidneys let more protein pass into urine than healthy kidneys.
    • Amount of urine that is made. Little or no urine is made as the kidneys fail.

Imaging tests look for a cause of sudden changes in how the kidneys work. They can also look at the size and shape of the kidneys. Tests may be done with:


  • Choosing a treatment for kidney failure. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/kidney-failure/choosing-treatment.
  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD) in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd-in-adults.
  • Complications of chronic kidney disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/complications-of-chronic-kidney-disease.
  • What is kidney failure? National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/KidneyFailure.


  • Mark S. Itzkowitz, MD, JD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.