Medical Definition of Creatinine

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Creatinine: A chemical waste molecule that is generated from muscle metabolism. Creatinine is produced from creatine, a molecule of major importance for energy production in muscles. Approximately 2% of the body's creatine is converted to creatinine every day. Creatinine is transported through the bloodstream to the kidneys. The kidneys filter out most of the creatinine and dispose of it in the urine.

Although it is a waste, creatinine serves a vital diagnostic function. Creatinine has been found to be a fairly reliable indicator of kidney function. As the kidneys become impaired the creatinine will rise. Abnormally high levels of creatinine thus warn of possible malfunction or failure of the kidneys, sometimes even before a patient reports any symptoms. It is for this reason that standard blood and urine tests routinely check the amount of creatinine in the blood.

Normal levels of creatinine in the blood are approximately 0.6 to 1.2 milligrams (mg) per deciliter (dl) in adult males and 0.5 to 1.1 milligrams per deciliter in adult females. (In the metric system, a milligram is a unit of weight equal to one-thousandth of a gram, and a deciliter is a unit of volume equal to one-tenth of a liter.) Muscular young or middle-aged adults may have more creatinine in their blood than the norm for the general population. Elderly persons, on the other hand, may have less creatinine in their blood than the norm. Infants have normal levels of about 0.2 or more, depending on their muscle development. A person with only one kidney may have a normal level of about 1.8 or 1.9. Creatinine levels that reach 2.0 or more in babies and 10.0 or more in adults may indicate the need for a dialysis machine to remove wastes from the blood.

Certain drugs can sometimes cause abnormally elevated creatinine levels.

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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