Orthostatic Proteinuria

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PatientPlus articles are written by UK doctors and are based on research evidence, UK and European Guidelines. They are designed for health professionals to use, so you may find the language more technical than the condition leaflets.

See also: Proteinuria written for patients

Orthostatic proteinuria (postural proteinuria) is defined as normal urinary protein excretion during the night but increased excretion during the day, associated with activity and upright posture. Total urinary protein excretion may be increased but levels above 1 g per 24 hours are more likely to be associated with underlying renal disease. The exact cause of orthostatic proteinuria is not known.

  • It is most common in children and young adults and most common in young adult males.
  • The prevalence is 2-5% of adolescents and rare in those older than 30 years.

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  • Positive urinary protein dipstick tests during the day but negative tests with early morning urine.
  • All other investigations of renal function and urinary tract anatomy are normal.

Other causes of proteinuria include:

The symptoms associated with the nutcracker phenomenon vary from asymptomatic haematuria to severe pelvic congestion. Symptoms include haematuria, orthostatic proteinuria, flank pain, abdominal pain, varicocele, dyspareunia, dysmenorrhoea and fatigue.[3] 

  • Urinalysis: initial check for possible urinary tract infection (urinary nitrite, leukocytes), diabetes (glycosuria) or other possible causes of proteinuria.
  • Quantifying proteinuria: 24-hour urine collection for protein, creatinine clearance and differential urinary protein are the best method. The 24-hour collection should be split into two separate collections for overnight and daytime.
  • Alternatively, the urinary albumin:creatinine ratio from overnight and daytime urine samples can be compared.
  • Normal night-time protein excretion with increased protein excretion during the day are indicative of orthostatic proteinuria. However, a further assessment of other causes of proteinuria is essential if there is any doubt.
  • Midstream urine: microscopy, culture and sensitivities if a urinary tract infection is suspected.
  • Blood tests: U&Es, blood glucose, serum proteins.
  • Several imaging methods such as Doppler ultrasound, CT angiography, MR angiography and retrograde venography are used to diagnose the nutcracker syndrome.[3] 
  • Other investigations include: imaging of the urinary tract; renal biopsy - may be required if the diagnosis remains in doubt.

It is essential to rule out any other cause of persistent proteinuria and this will often require referral to a nephrologist.

The management of nutcracker syndrome depends on the clinical presentation and the severity of the left renal vein hypertension. The treatment options range from surveillance to nephrectomy.

  • The long-term prognosis of true orthostatic proteinuria is excellent.
  • Although many of the patients continue to have proteinuria of minor degree for several decades, they do not get hypertension or renal impairment.
  • The prognosis of nutcracker syndrome depends on the degrees of left renal vein compression, left renal vein hypertension and the compensatory development of collateral blood vessels.[3] 

Further reading & references

  1. Mazzoni MB, Kottanatu L, Simonetti GD, et al; Renal vein obstruction and orthostatic proteinuria: a review. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2011 Feb;26(2):562-5. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfq444. Epub 2010 Jul 23.
  2. Ha TS, Lee EJ; ACE inhibition can improve orthostatic proteinuria associated with nutcracker syndrome. Pediatr Nephrol. 2006 Nov;21(11):1765-8. Epub 2006 Aug 11.
  3. Gulleroglu K, Gulleroglu B, Baskin E; Nutcracker syndrome. World J Nephrol. 2014 Nov 6;3(4):277-81. doi: 10.5527/wjn.v3.i4.277.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Dr Colin Tidy
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Helen Huins
Document ID:
1353 (v23)
Last Checked:
Next Review:

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