Background: Higher levels of plasma neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (pNGAL) are an early marker of acute kidney injury and are associated with increased risk of short-term adverse outcomes. The independent association between pNGAL and long-term mortality is unknown. Methods: In this prospective observational cohort study, we studied 1191 adults who underwent cardiac surgery between 2007 and 2009 at 6 centers in the TRIBE-AKI cohort. We measured the pNGAL on the pre-operative and first 3 post-operative days and assessed the relationship of peri-operative pNGAL concentrations with all-cause mortality. Results: During a median follow-up of 3.0 years, 139 participants died (50/1000 person-years). Preoperative levels of pNGAL were associated with 3-year mortality (unadjusted HR 1.96, 95% CI 1.34,2.85) and the association persisted after adjustment for pre-operative variables including estimated glomerular filtration rate (adjusted HR 1.48, 95% CI 1.04-2.12). After adjustment for pre- and intra-operative variables, including pre-operative NGAL levels, the highest tertiles of first post-operative and peak post-operative pNGAL were also independently associated with 3-year mortality risk (adjusted HR 1.31, 95% CI 1.0-1.7 and adjusted HR 1.78, 95% CI 1.2-2.7, respectively). However, after adjustment for peri-operative changes in serum creatinine, there was no longer an independent association between the first post-operative and peak post-operative pNGAL and long-term mortality (adjusted HR 0.98,95% CI 0.79-1.2 for first pNGAL and adjusted HR 1.19, 95% CI 0.87-1.61 for peak pNGAL). Conclusions: Pre-operative pNGAL levels were independently associated with 3-year mortality after cardiac surgery. While post-operative pNGAL levels were also associated with 3-year mortality, this relationship was not independent of changes in serum creatinine. These findings suggest that while pre-operative pNGAL adds prognostic value for mortality beyond routinely available serum creatinine, post-operative pNGAL measurements may not be as useful for this purpose.
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