Acute kidney injury (AKI), defined as a rise in serum creatinine (functional AKI), is a frequent complication after cardiac surgery. The expression pattern of acute tubular damage biomarkers such as neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) has been shown to precede functional AKI and, therefore, may be useful to identify very early tubular damage. The term subclinical AKI represents acute tubular damage in the absence of functional AKI (biomarker positivity without a rise in serum creatinine) and affects hard outcome measures. This potentiates an tubular-damage-based identification of renal injury, which may guide clinical management, allowing for very early preventive-protective strategies. The aim of this paper was to review the current available evidence on NGAL applicability in adult cardiac surgery patients and combine this knowledge with the expert consensus of the authors to generate an NGAL based tubular damage score: The cardiac surgery-associated NGAL Score (CSA-NGAL score). The CSA-NGAL score might be the tool needed to improve awareness and enable interventions to possibly modify these detrimental outcomes. In boldly doing so, it is intended to introduce a different approach in study designs, which will undoubtedly expand our knowledge and will hopefully move the AKI biomarker field forward.

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The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
Department of Intensive Care