The primary care perspective on routine urine dipstick screening to identify patients with albuminuria.
Proponents of routine urine dipstick screening to identify patients at risk for ESRD in the primary care setting have argued that urine dipsticks are inexpensive, low risk, acceptable to patients, and now, more accurate. Proponents believe that urine dipstick screening has the potential to improve outcomes for people with early disease and increase awareness of CKD. Most primary care physicians agree that populations who are at high risk for CKD should be tested and appropriately treated to decrease complications of ESRD. However, proponents of mass screening may not appreciate the challenges, limitations, and potential harms of screening. Urine dipstick testing does not meet all of the criteria for a good screening test. Screening the general population with urine dipsticks will generate many false positives-between 50% and 90% of positive tests-that will require follow-up, increase costs, and cause patient anxiety. Routine screening with urine dipsticks is not cost-effective on the order of $200,000 per quality-adjusted life year. Most importantly, there is little evidence that early identification of microalbuminuria in unselected patients influences outcomes of CKD. Without proof of effectiveness, overdiagnosis, a problem for even well established screening tests, is risked. Finally, no specialty society or preventive services group currently recommends general screening. Instead of screening, primary care physicians and nephrologists should work together to identify patients at high risk for ESRD and optimize management to improve outcomes for patients with CKD.