Urinalysis 101

Interview with Matthew Sparks, M.D. Assistant Professor at Duke University School of Medicine


  1. Break down urinalysis, education is needed, what does urinalysis mean?​

Urinalysis is an important screening tool used by primary care physicians (PCPs) and kidney specialists (nephrologists) to determine the overall health of the urinary system. Most laboratories will run an array of tests on this single sample. However, it is important to understand that the urinalysis is not a stand-alone test. Here are important factors with this test: 

•Patient history

•Patient physical exam

•Other lab tests such as patient's blood creatinine level 

Why is protein an important factor with urinalysis testing?

The presence of trace to 4+ proteinuria by urinalysis requires further testing by your doctor to figure out exactly how much protein you are losing in your urine and additional tests to determine why this might be. This could be the first clue of kidney disease. Another important finding from the urinalysis is the presence or absence of blood or red blood cells (rbcs).The presence of rbc’s should be extensively evaluated by your doctor as this could be secondary to urinary tract cancer, an infection or could be the first sign of a serious kidney problem. However, the urinalysis is not done yet and has the ability to detect even more. In the face of urinary tract symptoms, the urinalysis can be helpful in the diagnosis a urinary tract infection. Above all it is important that your doctor help review the results of a urinalysis with you as many of the findings require additional studies to verify the results. Thus, careful scrutiny must be applied by an experienced physician. The urinalysis represents a very important tool in diagnosing kidney problems. In fact, the above discussion only scratches the surface. 

How can PCPs and nephrologists educate the average person so they are aware of the importance of urinalysis?

The easiest way for both of these individuals to educate the average person is to sit down and explain the results of these tests to their patients. The other way is to remain active in their community and volunteer to speak at health fairs on the importance of the urinalysis especially at detecting proteinuria and hematuria. I also encourage PCPs and nephrologists to become active on social media and other avenues to discuss the importance of screening for kidney disease. 

What are some of the questions patients/people in general who attend health fairs should ask health care advisers about? 

They should be asking about their blood pressure results, chemistry panel results included their creatinine level (which is an important marker of kidney function). They should also carefully scrutinize their urinalysis result. If they are known to have kidney disease, then each medication should be carefully checked to ensure that they are on the proper dose and it is safe to take. Many medications are removed from the body by the kidneys so it is important to review this so that toxicity does not occur. It is important to detect kidney problems early so that patients can focus on a healthy lifestyle and address other medical problems that can contribute to kidney problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes for example. 

What goals are you contending for with KIDNEYcon? 

My goal is to raise awareness about the important impact kidney disease has on health. My focus has primarily been geared toward the healthcare professional, but I am also interested in ensure patients and the general population are educated and aware of importance the kidneys in health. 

Visit Matthew Sparks, M.D.

Website: KIDNEYcon

Twitter:  @Nephro_Sparks