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J Am Soc Nephrol. 2018 Mar;29(3):759-774. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2017090958. Epub 2018 Jan 10.

Differentiating Primary, Genetic, and Secondary FSGS in Adults: A Clinicopathologic Approach.

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Division of Nephrology, AZ Sint-Jan Brugge-Oostende, Brugge, Belgium;
Department of Anatomic Pathology and.
Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota; and.
Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, California.
Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota; and


FSGS describes a renal histologic lesion with diverse causes and pathogenicities that are linked by podocyte injury and depletion. Subclasses of FSGS include primary, genetic, and secondary forms, the latter comprising maladaptive, viral, and drug-induced FSGS. Despite sharing certain clinical and histologic features, these subclasses differ noticeably in management and prognosis. Without an accepted nongenetic biomarker that discriminates among these FSGS types, classification of patients is often challenging. This review summarizes the clinical and histologic features, including the onset and severity of proteinuria as well as the presence of nephrotic syndrome, that may aid in identifying the specific FSGS subtype. The FSGS lesion is characterized by segmental sclerosis and must be differentiated from nonspecific focal global glomerulosclerosis. No light microscopic features are pathognomonic for a particular FSGS subcategory. The characteristics of podocyte foot process effacement on electron microscopy, while helpful in discriminating between primary and maladaptive FSGS, may be of little utility in detecting genetic forms of FSGS. When FSGS cannot be classified by clinicopathologic assessment, genetic analysis should be offered. Next generation DNA sequencing enables cost-effective screening of multiple genes simultaneously, but determining the pathogenicity of a detected genetic variant may be challenging. A more systematic evaluation of patients, as suggested herein, will likely improve therapeutic outcomes and the design of future trials in FSGS.


FSGS; Primary; Secondary; genetic renal disease; nephrotic syndrome

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