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Clin Geriatr Med. 1985 Feb;1(1):207-22.

The aging kidney.


The aging kidney suffers reduction both in mass and in glomerular filtration rate. These changes may be totally or partially due to atherosclerosis and hypertension, which reduce renal blood flow. Superimposed on these processes, and perhaps responsible for primary loss of renal mass irrespective of renal vascular disease, is glomerular damage and involution that is a consequence of adaptive increases in glomerular perfusion pressure that occurs as the number of nephrons decline with age. The data available at this time do not allow us to distinguish between these two potential mechanisms of renal senescence. The decline in GFR is in turn responsible for reduced renal acidification and the reduced renal clearance of drugs that are normally removed by the kidney. Certain renal functions, however, are depressed to a greater extent than is GFR. Both the ability to maximally dilute the urine and to maximally concentrate it are controlled by serum ADH concentrations and by the action of that hormone on the collecting duct. Aged rats do not maximally secrete ADH under conditions of dehydration and the effect of ADH on the kidney is also attenuated. Elderly humans also cannot maximally suppress ADH secretion when serum osmolality is reduced. Likewise, the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone axis is poorly responsive to volume depletion in aging subjects. As a result, elderly individuals cannot maximally retain sodium under conditions of plasma volume contraction out of proportion to reduction in GFR. The kidney is the site of vitamin D1 hydroxylation. Hydroxylation of vitamin D is reduced out of proportion to any reduction in GFR in the rat. There are no data as yet available on the effect of aging and the production of erythropoietin, a principal regulator of red blood cell mass. Neither are there data available on changes that might occur with advancing age in the ability of the aging kidney to metabolize various hormones, such as parathyroid hormone, glucagon, and insulin. The mechanisms and the full biochemical and physiologic consequences of renal senescence remain to be fully elucidated.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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