Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Creatinine clearance versus serum creatinine as a risk factor in cardiac surgery

Jörg Walter1, Amir Mortasawi2*, Bert Arnrich1, Alexander Albert2, Inez Frerichs3, Ulrich Rosendahl2 and Jürgen Ennker2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neuroinformatics, University of Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany

2 Clinic of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Heart Institute Lahr/Baden, Lahr, Germany

3 Department of Anaesthesiological Research, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Surgery 2003, 3:4  doi:10.1186/1471-2482-3-4

Published: 17 June 2003



Renal impairment is one of the predictors of mortality in cardiac surgery. Usually a binarized value of serum creatinine is used to assess the renal function in risk models. Creatinine clearance can be easily estimated by the Cockcroft and Gault equation from serum creatinine, gender, age and body weight. In this work we examine whether this estimation of the glomerular filtration rate can advantageously replace the serum creatinine in the EuroSCORE preoperative risk assessment.


In a group of 8138 patients out of a total of 11878 patients, who underwent cardiac surgery in our hospital between January 1996 and July 2002, the 18 standard EuroSCORE parameters could retrospectively be determined and logistic regression analysis performed. In all patients scored, creatinine clearance was calculated according to Cockcroft and Gault. The relationship between the predicted and observed 30-days mortality was evaluated in systematically selected intervals of creatinine clearance and significance values computed by employing Monte Carlo methods. Afterwards, risk scoring was performed using a continuous or a categorical value of creatinine clearance instead of serum creatinine. The predictive ability of several risk score models and the individual contribution of their predictor variables were studied using ROC curve analysis.


The comparison between the expected and observed 30-days mortalities, which were determined in different intervals of creatinine clearance, revealed the best threshold value of 55 ml/min. A significantly higher 30-days mortality was observed below this threshold and vice versa (both with p < 0.001). The local adaptation of the EuroSCORE is better than the standard EuroSCORE and was further improved by replacing serum creatinine (SC) by creatinine clearance (CC). Differential ROC analysis revealed that CC is superior to SC in providing predictive power within the logistic regression. Variable rank comparison identified CC as the best single variable predictor, even better than the variable age, former number 1, and SC, previously number 9 in the standard set of EuroSCORE variables.


The renal function is an important determinant of mortality in heart surgery. This risk factor is not well captured in the standard EuroSCORE risk evaluation system. Our study shows that creatinine clearance, calculated according to the Cockcroft and Gault equation, should be applied to estimate the preoperative renal function instead of serum creatinine. This predictor variable replacement gains a significant improvement in the predictive accuracy of the scoring model.

Renal function; Cockcroft-Gault formula; risk scoring; improving EuroSCORE; cardiac surgery; 30-days mortality