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J Am Soc Nephrol. 2004 Feb;15(2):407-10.

The value of N-acetylcysteine in the prevention of radiocontrast agent-induced nephropathy seems questionable.

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Department of Internal Medicine II, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.


Prevention of contrast agent-induced nephropathy is of crucial importance for a number of diagnostic studies. N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) was recently reported to decrease serum creatinine levels in this setting, and its administration before radiocontrast medium administration has been widely recommended. The objective of this prospective study was to investigate whether there are effects of NAC on serum creatinine levels that are independent of alterations in GFR. Volunteers with normal renal function who did not receive radiocontrast medium were studied. Fifty healthy volunteers completed the study protocol. NAC was administered orally at a dose of 600 mg every 12 h, for a total of four doses. Surrogate markers of renal function, such as serum creatinine, urea, albumin, and cystatin C levels, were measured and estimated GFR (eGFR) was assessed immediately before the administration of NAC and 4 and 48 h after the last dose. There was a significant decrease in the mean serum creatinine concentration (P < 0.05) and a significant increase in the eGFR (P < 0.02) 4 h after the last dose of NAC. The cystatin C concentrations did not change significantly. In several studies, a protective effect of NAC on renal function after radiocontrast medium administration has been postulated. This is the first study to demonstrate an effect of NAC on creatinine levels and eGFR, surrogate markers of renal injury, without any effect on cystatin C levels. Before renoprotective effects of NAC against contrast agent-induced nephropathy are considered, the direct effects of NAC on creatinine levels, urea levels, and eGFR should be assessed.

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