Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Reference Guide
BUN/Creatinine Ratio
Sign up free to test for 
BUN/Creatinine Ratio
One login for 30+ lab companies.

BUN/Creatinine Ratio

The BUN/Creatinine ratio serves as a vital indicator of kidney function by measuring the ratio of two key substances in the blood: blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine. 

The kidneys play a crucial role in filtering waste products from the blood, and any disruption in their function can lead to imbalances in BUN and creatinine levels. 

In this article, we will explore the significance of the BUN/Creatinine ratio, its testing methods and procedures, the interpretation of results, and the clinical implications of a high ratio. 

Understanding this ratio is essential for assessing kidney health and identifying potential issues early on, enabling timely intervention and management to maintain optimal renal function.

Understanding BUN/Creatinine Ratio

What is BUN (blood urea nitrogen)?

Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) is a crucial waste product found in the blood, originating primarily from the breakdown of proteins in the liver. 

Proteins consumed through the diet are broken down into amino acids, which are further metabolized in the liver, leading to the production of ammonia.  Ammonia is subsequently converted into urea, a water-soluble compound that can be excreted by the kidneys. 

BUN levels in the blood reflect the balance between urea production and its elimination through kidney filtration.  The range of normal BUN levels in blood is quite wide due to many physiological factors including variations in protein intake, hydration status, an individual’s protein metabolism, hepatic urea production and clearance from the kidneys.  [5.]

What is Creatinine?

Creatinine is a waste product generated by muscle metabolism. It is produced continuously as a result of the natural breakdown of creatine phosphate, a substance found in muscle tissue, which provides energy for muscle contractions. 

Creatinine is filtered out of the blood by the kidneys and excreted through urine. Since creatinine is produced at a relatively constant rate and is eliminated solely by the kidneys, its blood levels serve as a reliable indicator of kidney function. 

Higher levels of creatinine in the blood typically suggest impaired kidney function or decreased glomerular filtration rate (GFR), while lower levels may indicate reduced muscle mass or certain medical conditions affecting creatinine production.

What is the BUN/Creatinine Ratio?

The BUN/creatinine ratio is a valuable clinical tool used to assess kidney function and hydration status. 

By comparing the levels of blood urea nitrogen (BUN) to creatinine in the bloodstream, healthcare providers can gain insights into the underlying causes of kidney dysfunction. 

Additionally, the BUN/creatinine ratio can help differentiate between prerenal, renal, and postrenal causes of acute kidney injury. 

While the BUN/creatinine ratio may be used alongside GFR for kidney function assessment, it should be interpreted within the full context of an individual’s health history.  The relationship between BUN/creatinine ratio and GFR is not linear but follows a parabolic curve, with ratio values remaining within the normal range until over 50% of renal function is lost. 

Thus, in early renal disease stages, these tests may not accurately reflect impairment, potentially leading to a false sense of security.  [5.]

However, small changes in kidney function can result in significant increases in BUN and creatinine, making them useful for monitoring patients' progress. Throughout renal insufficiency, creatinine is considered a more reliable indicator of renal function than BUN, as BUN levels can be influenced by various dietary and physiological factors unrelated to renal function.

Overall, monitoring this ratio may provide valuable information for diagnosing and managing various kidney-related disorders, guiding treatment decisions, and evaluating response to therapy.

Testing Methods and Procedures

Blood Test for BUN/Creatinine

The blood test for BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and creatinine involves drawing a blood sample from a vein, typically in the arm. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. 

This test is often done in conjunction with other tests that require fasting, so ordering healthcare providers will likely recommend fasting for 8-12 hours prior to the test.  

BUN measures the amount of urea nitrogen in the blood, which is a waste product generated from the breakdown of proteins in the liver. Creatinine, on the other hand, is a waste product produced by muscles during metabolism and is filtered out of the blood by the kidneys. 

Elevated levels of both BUN and creatinine in the blood may indicate kidney dysfunction or other health conditions.

Calculation of BUN/Creatinine Ratio: 

The BUN/creatinine ratio is calculated by dividing the BUN level by the creatinine level, both of which are measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). This ratio provides valuable insights into kidney function and hydration status. 

Reference Range for BUN/Creatinine Ratio

The typical reference range for BUN/Creatinine ratio is: [3., 4.]

Adults (on a normal diet): 10-20

However, ranges may vary among lab companies.

Interpreting BUN/Creatinine Ratio Results

A normal BUN/creatinine ratio falls within the range of 10:1 to 20:1, indicating balanced kidney function and hydration levels. 

Deviations from this range may signify underlying health conditions such as kidney disease, dehydration, or heart failure.  It is important to note the many non-renal factors that can influence the BUN/creatinine ratio, necessitating a comprehensive assessment of an individual’s health history as well as diet and lifestyle factors.  [5.]

What Does a High BUN/Creatinine Ratio Mean?

A high BUN/Creatinine ratio can have several implications for health. 

Impaired kidney function: Elevated BUN/creatinine ratio may indicate decreased kidney filtration capacity, leading to impaired clearance of urea and creatinine from the blood.

Dehydration: Insufficient fluid intake or excessive fluid loss can concentrate urea and creatinine in the blood, resulting in elevated BUN/creatinine ratio due to reduced kidney perfusion.

Acute kidney injury: Sudden loss of kidney function, often due to factors like severe dehydration, decreased blood flow to the kidneys, or exposure to nephrotoxic drugs, can result in elevated BUN/creatinine ratio.

Chronic kidney disease: Progressive impairment of kidney function over time can lead to persistent elevation of BUN and creatinine levels in the blood, resulting in a high BUN/creatinine ratio.

Congestive heart failure: Reduced cardiac output and inadequate tissue perfusion in congestive heart failure can lead to decreased blood flow to the kidneys, resulting in elevated BUN/creatinine ratio.

Urinary tract obstruction: Blockage in the urinary tract, such as kidney stones or tumors, can impair urine flow and lead to elevated BUN/creatinine ratio in the blood due to reduced excretion of urea and creatinine.

Hyperthyroidism: Excessive thyroid hormone production in hyperthyroidism can accelerate metabolism and increase muscle breakdown, contributing to elevated creatinine levels and a high BUN/creatinine ratio.  [1.]

Significant GI bleeding: blood proteins may be absorbed and metabolized by the liver, contributing to elevated blood urea nitrogen levels and hypoperfusion of the kidneys.  [2., 5.]

High Protein Intake: by increasing BUN while maintaining or only slightly elevating creatinine, a high protein intake may raise BUN/creatinine ratio.  [5.]

What is a Dangerously High BUN/Creatinine Ratio?

A dangerously high BUN/Creatinine ratio typically indicates severe impairment of kidney function or other underlying health conditions. 

While there's no universally agreed-upon threshold, a ratio above the normal range is considered high.  Clinically, a ratio above 20:1 is often considered abnormal and warrants further investigation, as it could signify renal dysfunction, congestive heart failure, or gastrointestinal bleeding. 

The interpretation of the BUN/Creatinine ratio should consider individual patient factors such as age, gender, medical history, diet and lifestyle alongside other laboratory parameters to accurately assess kidney function and guide appropriate management.

What Does a Low BUN/Creatinine Ratio Mean?

There can be many reasons for a low BUN/creatinine ratio: 

Reduced protein intake: Low dietary protein intake can lead to decreased BUN levels.

Liver disease: Impaired liver function can affect the synthesis of urea, leading to lower BUN levels.

Malnutrition or starvation: Inadequate nutrition or malabsorption disorders can result in reduced protein intake and subsequently lower BUN levels.

Pregnancy: During pregnancy, increased blood volume and fluid retention can dilute BUN concentrations, leading to lower levels.

Severe muscle wasting: Conditions causing significant muscle breakdown such as severe burns, rhabdomyolysis  or muscle wasting diseases can increase creatinine production, resulting in a lower BUN/creatinine ratio.

Clinical Significance and Management

A high BUN/Creatinine ratio can indicate various underlying health conditions including kidney dysfunction as well as extrarenal causes including dehydration, GI bleeding, or other systemic illnesses affecting renal function. Once identified, it's essential to determine the root cause through further diagnostic tests and medical evaluation. 

Treatment strategies focus on addressing the underlying condition contributing to the elevated ratio. For instance, managing dehydration may involve fluid replacement therapy, while kidney disease may require medication management, dietary modifications, or other interventions aimed at preserving renal function and preventing further complications. 

Regular monitoring of kidney function through serial BUN/Creatinine ratio measurements and other relevant laboratory tests is crucial to assess treatment effectiveness and adjust therapeutic approaches accordingly.

What To Do If BUN/Creatinine Ratio is High or Low

  • Prompt medical attention is necessary to identify the underlying cause and initiate appropriate management.
  • Patients with elevated or depressed ratios may require further diagnostic tests including imaging studies or renal function tests to assess kidney function and evaluate potential extrarenal causes.
  • Treatment strategies often involve addressing underlying conditions contributing to the ratio such as correcting dehydration, managing kidney disease, or treating conditions or lifestyle factors affecting the BUN/creatinine ratio.  
  • Lifestyle modifications, such as dietary changes and increased fluid intake, may be recommended to support kidney health and prevent further complications.
  • LImiting red and processed meat and focusing on plant-based protein as part of a healthy diet may preserve kidney function in people with kidney disease.  [6.]
  • Close follow-up with a healthcare provider is essential to monitor treatment response, optimize kidney function, and minimize the risk of long-term complications associated with a high BUN/Creatinine ratio.

Tests to Assess BUN/Creatinine Ratio

This test is often offered as part of a panel.  Click here for a list of panels that offer the BUN/Creatinine ratio

BUN/Creatinine Ratio
The BUN/Creatinine Ratio is a measurement that helps assess kidney health by looking at two key waste products: Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) and Creatinine. BUN is a waste substance created when your body breaks down proteins, and Creatinine is a waste product that comes from normal muscle activity. Both of these waste materials are filtered from your blood by your kidneys and removed through your urine. By comparing the levels of these two substances, the BUN/Creatinine Ratio can give a clear picture of how well your kidneys are working to eliminate these waste products from your body. In simpler terms, it's like a quick snapshot of your kidney's performance, showing how efficiently they are cleaning your blood.
If Your Levels Are High
A high BUN/Creatinine Ratio might mean that your kidneys are working harder than usual to filter waste from your blood. This could be due to a few reasons, such as not drinking enough water, which makes the blood thicker and harder for the kidneys to clean. Eating a lot of protein can also affect this ratio, as more protein creates more waste for your kidneys to remove. Some medications, like corticosteroids and certain antibiotics, can also cause higher BUN levels. In some cases, high levels could be a sign of other health issues like liver disease or heart failure, as these conditions can impact how well your body manages fluids and, in turn, affect kidney function.
Symptoms of High Levels
Symptoms of high levels of BUN/Creatinine Ratio may not be noticeable in the early stages. However, as the condition progresses, one might experience fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and in severe cases, confusion or disorientation.
If Your Levels are Low
A low BUN/Creatinine Ratio might mean that your body isn't getting rid of waste products as effectively as it should. This could be due to various reasons, such as not eating enough protein, not getting enough nutrients, or drinking too much water, which can dilute these substances in your blood. Some medications, like those for high blood pressure or heart issues, could also impact this ratio. Possible underlying conditions that could lead to a low BUN/Creatinine Ratio include liver problems or damage, since the liver is important for making urea, a component of the ratio.
Symptoms of Low Levels
Symptoms of low levels of BUN/Creatinine Ratio may not be noticeable in the early stages. However, as the condition progresses, one might experience fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, and muscle weakness.
See References

[1.] Aizawa T, Hiramatsu K, Ohtsuka H, Kobayashi M, Koizumi Y, Miyamoto T, Niwa A, Yamada T. An elevation of BUN/creatinine ratio in patients with hyperthyroidism. Horm Metab Res. 1986 Nov;18(11):771-4. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-1012432. PMID: 3792996.

[2.] Clinical Assessment of the Patient with Kidney Disease. Pocket Companion to Brenner and Rector’s The Kidney. Published online 2011:3-20.  doi:

[3.] DynaMedex. Accessed March 6, 2024. 

[4.] Henry JB: Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods, 20th ed. Saunders, 2001. 

[5.] Hosten AO. BUN and Creatinine. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Chapter 193. Available from:

[6.] Kramer H. Diet and Chronic Kidney Disease. Adv Nutr. 2019 Nov 1;10(Suppl_4):S367-S379. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmz011. PMID: 31728497; PMCID: PMC6855949.

Test for

BUN/Creatinine Ratio

Order, track, and receive results from 30+ labs in one place.