Background Chronic tubulointerstitial injury on kidney biopsy is usually quantified by the percentage of cortex with interstitial fibrosis/tubular atrophy (IF/TA). Whether other patterns of IF/TA or inflammation in the tubulointerstitium have prognostic importance beyond percentage IF/TA is unclear. Methods We obtained, stained, and digitally scanned full cortical thickness wedge sections of renal parenchyma from patients who underwent a radical nephrectomy for a tumor over 2000–2015, and morphometrically analyzed the tubulointerstitium of the cortex for percentage IF/TA, IF/TA density (foci per mm2 cortex), percentage subcapsular IF/TA, striped IF/TA, percentage inflammation (both within and outside IF/TA regions), and percentage subcapsular inflammation. Patients were followed with visits every 6–12 months. Progressive CKD was defined as dialysis, kidney transplantation, or 40% decline from the postnephrectomy eGFR. Cox models assessed the risk of CKD or noncancer mortality with morphometric measures of tubulointerstitial injury after adjustment for the percentage IF/TA and clinical characteristics. Results Among 936 patients (mean age, 64 years; postnephrectomy baseline eGFR, 48 ml/min per 1.73m2), 117 progressive CKD events and 183 noncancer deaths occurred over a median 6.4 years. Higher IF/TA density predicted both progressive CKD and noncancer mortality after adjustment for percentage IF/TA and predicted progressive CKD after further adjustment for clinical characteristics. Independent of percentage IF/TA, age, and sex, higher IF/TA density correlated with lower eGFR, smaller nonsclerosed glomeruli, more global glomerulosclerosis, and smaller total cortical volume. Conclusions Higher density of IF/TA foci (a more scattered pattern with more and smaller foci) predicts higher risk of progressive CKD after radical nephrectomy compared with the same percentage of IF/TA but with fewer and larger foci.
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