Background: The relationship of kidney size to ageing, kidney function and kidney disease risk factors is not fully understood. Methods: Ultrasound length and parenchymal kidney volume were determined from a population-based sample of 3972 Sardinians (age range 18-100 years). We then identified the subset of 2256 'healthy' subjects to define age- and sex-specific reference ranges (2.5-97.5 percentile) of kidney volume. Logistic regression (accounting for family clustering) was used to identify the clinical characteristics associated with abnormally large kidneys or abnormally small kidneys. Results: In the healthy subset, kidney volume and length increased up to the fourth to fifth decade of life followed by a progressive decrease in men, whereas there was a gradual kidney volume decrease throughout the lifespan of women. In the whole sample, independent predictors of lower kidney volume (<2.5 percentile for age and sex) were male sex, low body mass index, short height, low waist:hip ratio and high serum creatinine (SCr); the independent predictors of larger kidney volume (>97.5 percentile for age and sex) were younger age, female sex, diabetes, obesity, high height, high waist:hip ratio and lower SCr. Estimated heritability for kidney volume was 15%, and for length 27%; kidney volume correlated strongly with birthweight. Conclusions: Overall, in a general healthy population, kidney measures declined with age differently in men and women. The determinants of kidney parenchymal volume include genetic factors and modifiable clinical factors.
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