Critically-ill patients suffering from a life-threatening condition are being targeted in a new project by experts in Leeds to find earlier tests to diagnose the problem.
Acute kidney injury causes 42,000 deaths a year and costs the NHS £1.2 billion annually.
Figures show those who suffer from it are more likely to die than people who have a heart attack.
But specialists believe earlier detection of the condition, previously known as acute renal failure, could reduce the death toll and lead to the development of new therapies to treat it.
The condition leads to an abrupt loss of kidney function, with official NHS guidance suggesting it is seen in as many as one in six hospital patients, often the elderly, who might be cared for by specialists who are not experts in the condition.
In the joint project between Leeds University and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, doctors will work together with economists to assess how patients are treated in the NHS and evaluate the capability of new tests to influence and improve routine patient care.
Experts say the study will also pave the way for further investment in diagnostics for the prevention of acute kidney injury in Leeds and across the NHS.
Co-leader of the study, Peter Hall, said: “Acute kidney injury is a major problem in critically-ill patients in the NHS.
“The consequences include death or the development of chronic kidney disease and the need for long term dialysis.
“Simple treatments are effective if used promptly but we urgently need better diagnostic tests to allow earlier detection.”
Colleague Andy Lewington said: “Patients who suffer acute kidney injury are at a higher risk of death than patients who suffer a heart attack.
“Funding and research in this area needs to improve if we are to improve patient outcomes.
“I am delighted we have the opportunity to perform this study in Leeds and hope industry will support our work.”
The study is being funded with a £175,000 award from the National Institute for Health Research health technology assessment programme.
The institute’s diagnostic evidence cooperative at the NHS trust will provide essential support to the project to design a NHS strategy for the further development of the most promising diagnostic tests.
The first results are expected by 2016.