Sodium–glucose co-transporter-2 inhibitors (SGLT2i) provide outstanding long-term cardiovascular and renal protection in high-risk patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Yet, despite encouraging renal safety outcomes reported in the EMPA-REG study, scattered reports suggest that there might be a risk for acute kidney injury (AKI), which may occasionally be fatal or might require renal replacement therapy. Reduced trans-glomerular pressure with a modest decline in kidney function, an inherent characteristic of SGLT2i therapy, conceivably forms the basis for the long-term renal protection, resembling agents that block the renin–angiotensin–aldosterone (RAAS) axis. Yet, a major decline in kidney function occasionally occurs, often associated with an acute illness or with specific co-administered medications. SGLT2i may lead to AKI by (a) effective volume depletion, due to excessive diuresis, particularly in hemodynamically unstable and volume-depleted patients; (b) excessive decline in trans-glomerular pressure, specifically in patients on RAAS blockade; and (c) induction of renal medullary hypoxic injury, related to enhanced distal tubular transport, especially with concomitant use of agents impairing medullary oxygenation, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and radiocontrast agents. The risk of developing renal impairment with SGLT2i and the role of these suggested mechanisms are yet to be defined, as there are conflicting data and inconsistent reporting with the various agents currently in use.
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