The light microscopic, immunofluorescence, and electron microscopic appearances of renal biopsy specimens were reviewed and correlated with the clinical and laboratory findings in 61 patients in whom the findings were initially considered to be either normal or to show only minor non-specific abnormalities. In all cases this reassessment included quantitative measurement of glomerular basement membrane thickness by an orthogonal intercept technique. On the basis of the indication for biopsy, patients were classified into three groups: those with haematuria (group I, n = 41); those with a minor degree of proteinuria (group II, n = 16); and those without any urinary abnormality but in whom possible renal disease as a result of systemic disease was suspected (group III, n = 6). About half of the patients with haematuria had significantly thinner glomerular basement membranes than those in the other two groups, irrespective of the variable selected for assessment, and in three this was confirmed in follow up biopsy specimens. Follow up for up to eight years showed that in patients either with or without thin basement membranes haematuria commonly persisted, but the long term outlook in all three groups was otherwise good and no patient developed impaired renal function.
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