BackgroundThe Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes (KDIGO) system for classification of acute kidney injury (AKI) severity utilizes a staging schema based on relative changes in serum creatinine (sCr) concentration and urine output. This study compares the in-hospital mortality associated with KDIGO-defined AKI stages and AKI stages defined by absolute sCr increases ('Delta-Creatinine').MethodsThe study included an analysis of hospital discharge and laboratory data from an urban academic medical center over a 1-year period. Including adult in-patients undergoing two or more sCr measurements, the study classified AKI stages using the KDIGO consensus standards as well as absolute increases in sCr ('Delta-Creatinine'); Stage 0, sCr increase <0.3 mg/dL, Stage 1, sCr increase 0.3-0.69 mg/dL, Stage 2, sCr increase 0.7-1.19 mg/dL and Stage 3, sCr increase ≥1.2 mg/dL or initiation of renal replacement therapy. The Delta-Creatinine cut-points were defined to optimize discrimination of in-patient mortality between AKI stages. The associations between KDIGO and Delta-Creatinine AKI stages and in-hospital mortality were compared using the time-dependent hazard ratios (HRs) and the net reclassification improvement (NRI).ResultsOf the 19 878 hospitalizations included in the analysis, the prevalence of AKI was 23.4% as defined by the KDIGO criteria. The Delta-Creatinine system discriminated the differences between adjacent AKI stages (i.e. 1 versus 0, 2 versus 1, 3 versus 3) earlier than the KDIGO system. The NRI between Delta-Creatinine and KDIGO for the prediction of mortality was 9.7% [95% confidence interval (CI) 6.2-13.2%]. Stratification by age, sex, race and history of chronic kidney disease (CKD) resulted in similar NRI values.ConclusionThe Delta-Creatinine system, based on the absolute increases in sCr, provides a promising alternative to the KDIGO system for characterizing the severity of AKI and its associations with in-patient mortality. © 2013 The Authors.