Nephrotic syndrome (NS) is defined by nephrotic-range proteinuria, hypoalbuminemia, edema, and hypercholesterolemia. Nephrotic-range proteinuria is typically found when there is 3 to 4+ protein on the urine dipstick and is defined as >40 mg/m2/h or a spot protein-to-creatinine ratio >2 mg protein/mg creatinine.
- Minimal change nephrotic syndrome (MCNS) is the most frequent cause of NS in younger children:
- Occurs mainly between 2 and 8 years of age, with a peak at 3 years
- Boys are more commonly affected than girls (3:2).
- Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) is the 2nd most frequent cause of NS in childhood:
- Children with FSGS are more likely than children with MCNS to have steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome (SRNS).
- Less common than MCNS and FSGS are congenital NS (<3 months) and infantile NS (3 to 12 months).
- 2 to 7 per 100,000 in children <16 years
- 16 cases per 100,000 in children <16 years
- African American and Hispanic children have a higher prevalence of FSGS than Caucasian and Asian children.
- Disruption of podocyte architecture composing the glomerular filtration barrier leads to proteinuria, hypoalbuminemia, and subsequently edema.
- Hypercholesterolemia occurs due to increased liver production of cholesterol in response to hypoalbuminemia as well as to loss of lipoprotein lipase in urine.
- MCNS pathology
- Minimal histologic changes on light microscopy
- The glomerular tuft size is normal.
- Mesangial expansion is absent or minimal.
- Immunofluorescence is usually negative, although mild staining for C3, IgM, and IgA may occasionally be found.
- Electron microscopy reveals diffuse effacement of the podocyte foot processes.
- Most pediatric cases are primary; 5–10% are secondary to other diseases.
- The most common primary cause of NS in childhood is MCNS.
- Other causes of primary NS include FSGS, membranous nephropathy, and membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (GN).
- Secondary causes of NS include infections, vasculitis, diabetes, drugs (e.g., NSAIDs), and hereditary disorders.
- Examples of congenital NS include Finnish type caused by NPHS1 mutations, diffuse mesangial sclerosis (DMS), and infections (toxoplasmosis, rubella, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus, HIV, syphilis).
- NS can be caused by inherited mutations in proteins involved in the podocyte cytoskeleton, which often results in SRNS and FSGS (up to 20–30% of SRNS).
Commonly Associated Conditions
- Atopy and MCNS have an association.
- Syndromes associated with NS include Denys-Drash, nail-patella, Lowe, Galloway-Mowat, Frasier, and Pierson.
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