Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Renal function after long-term treatment with lithium.

Br Med J 1979; 1 doi: (Published 02 June 1979) Cite this as: Br Med J 1979;1:1457
  1. R P Hullin,
  2. V P Coley,
  3. N J Birch,
  4. T H Thomas,
  5. D B Morgan


    Daily urine volumes, plasma creatinine concentrations, and creatinine clearance were measured in 106 patients with unipolar and bipolar affective disorders attending a "lithium" clinic. Urine volumes exceeded 3.51 in only six patients, plasma creatinine concentrations exceeded 150 mumol/1 (1.7 mg/100 ml) in only five, and creatinine clearance was below 50 ml/min in 16. Renal function was assessed by measuring creatinine clearance and renal tubular function, including response to 20 hours of water deprivation, in a representative sample of 30 patients from the lithium clinic and 30 psychiatric patients matched for age and sex who were taking other psychotropic drugs. Creatinine clearance and tubular function, including urine osmolality after water deprivation, were not significantly different between the two groups. Urinary excretion of arginine vasopressin (AVP), however, was much greater in the lithium-treated patients, who therefore had a diminished tubular responsiveness to AVP. The findings do not support suggestions that long-term lithium treatment results in seriously impaired renal function, renal damage, and polyuria. Compared with other series, however, the patients were being maintained with low serum lithium concentrations, which apparently area as effective prophylactically as higher concentrations.