Nephrotic Syndrome Management


These guidelines have been produced to guide clinical decision making for the medical, nursing and allied health staff of Perth Children’s Hospital. They are not strict protocols, and they do not replace the judgement of a senior clinician. Clinical common-sense should be applied at all times. These clinical guidelines should never be relied on as a substitute for proper assessment with respect to the particular circumstances of each case and the needs of each patient. Clinicians should also consider the local skill level available and their local area policies before following any guideline. 

Read the full PCH Emergency Department disclaimer.


To present a standardised treatment regimen and management plan for children with idiopathic (typical) nephrotic syndrome (NS) at first presentation and for subsequent relapses.

Background/definitions 1-4

Nephrotic Syndrome (NS)  A clinical disorder that affects permeability of the glomerular membrane; typical clinical findings in NS are:
  • Oedema: typically periorbital, abdominal and lower limbs
  • Proteinuria:  ≥ 3+ protein on urine dipstick, or a urine protein / creatinine ratio (uPCR) >200mg/mmol
  • Hypoalbuminemia: serum albumin <25g/l
Complete remission

<1+ protein on urine dipstick, or uPCR <200mg/mmol for 3 consecutive days

  • 80-90% of children with NS will see improvement within 2-4 weeks of corticosteroid treatment and achieve complete remission with 8 weeks

≥3+ protein on urine dipstick or uPCR ≥200 mg/mmol for 3 consecutive days

  • 80-90% of children with NS will experience one or more relapses; approximately half of these will have frequent relapses


Delays in recognition and initiation of treatment can place children at increased risk of developing a life-threatening infection which remains the leading cause of mortality in children with NS, currently at around 3%.1

The effects of treatment itself can place children at risk for adverse outcomes if not appropriately and carefully managed. Prolonged use of high dose corticosteroids has well known side effects4,5 including immunosuppression, increasing the risk of infection; cataracts; and osteoporosis.5  A standardised approach and rationalised corticosteroid regimen aims to minimise these risks. 

Key points

  • Children presenting to hospital with first episode of NS should be either admitted to an inpatient ward for initiation of treatment and stabilisation, or if clinically well can be managed in the Day Treatment Unit (DTU).
  • Children < 1 year or >12 years, and children presenting with non-typical features of nephrotic syndrome (see Nephrologist Referral) should be referred to a specialist paediatric nephrologist for further investigation and management. 
  • Acute presenting complications of nephrotic syndrome (hypovolaemia, infection and thrombosis) should be managed in consultation with the relevant specialty teams.
  • Standard treatment regimen at first presentation is an 8 week course of corticosteroids (prednisolone), prophylactic oral antibiotics and vaccination.5
    • A recent Cochrane review demonstrated no benefit of extending prednisolone treatment beyond 2-3 months.1 
  • Children, who are planned for or on significant immunosuppressive doses of corticosteroids (≥2mg/kg/day of the prednisolone equivalent dose for greater than 1 week), require additional pneumococcal vaccines and annual influenza vaccination. Refer to the Immunosuppressive Therapy and Vaccination Guideline (internal WA Health only) and medically at-risk WA Immunisation schedule.1
  • Due to the likelihood of relapse3, it is important during the first admission to initiate a child / carer education plan that includes recognising the signs / symptoms of relapse and home monitoring of proteinuria.
  • All children being treated in the inpatient wards or in DTU should be referred to the Renal Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) so that education can be coordinated and an individualised home relapse treatment plan formulated.


Once Nephrotic syndrome is suspected as the presenting diagnosis, follow the assessment below:
  • Oedema - principal presenting feature:
    • Mild to moderate periorbital, scrotal or labial swelling
    • Severe / symptomatic: gross scrotal / labial or limb swelling, ascites, increased respiratory effort / distress can indicate pleural effusion.
    • Weight gain – measure weight and height
  • Vital signs, including BP
  • Neurological assessment
  • Assess for acute complications and seek advice from specialty team/s if signs and symptoms present:
    • Intravascular volume depletion: 
      • poor peripheral perfusion, tachycardia, dizziness and abdominal cramps, low urinary sodium
    • Infection (at increased risk during nephrotic state): 6
    • Thrombosis (at increased risk during nephrotic state): 7,8  
      • Deep vein thrombosis - pulmonary embolus
      • Renal vein thrombosis - palpable kidney, hypertension, loin tenderness
      • Cerebral vein thrombosis (CVT) – neurological signs and symptoms
  • Immunisation status (via review of the patient’s Australian Immunisation Register record) and history of recent exposure to vaccine preventable diseases, in particular Streptococcus pneumoniae and varicella exposure. 


  • Urine: 
    • Urinalysis / 
    • Urine protein: creatinine ratio (uPCR), ideally first morning urine
    • MCS if febrile 
    • ±Urine sodium, (intravascular volume depletion)
  • Bloods: 
    • FBP, UEC, LFTs, calcium, phosphate, magnesium
    • Initial presentation only: Streptococcal serology, complement levels (C3, C4) and antinuclear antibody (ANA)
    • Blood Cultures if febrile / septic
    • Please note: lipid profile (including cholesterol) and 25 - OH vitamin D are not required
  • ± Imaging; if concerned about thromboembolism, in consultation with renal and haematology specialists.


  • Discussion with the accepting team - General Paediatrics or Nephrology.
  • Most children would need admission to inpatient ward for their initial presentation. 
    • Frequent DTU reviews may be an option at the discretion of the treating Consultant and if the child’s clinical condition allows. 

General Ward Management

  • Daily weight 
  • Daily urinalysis and / or uPCR
  • Strict fluid balance and fluid restriction – only in nephrotic state:
Age Restrict fluids whilst in nephrotic state:
< 5 years 500mL / 24 hours
5 to 10 years 750mL / 24 hours
> 10 years  1000mL / 24 hours
  • No added salt (NAS) diet - only in nephrotic state:
    • Select NAS option on e-diet
    • Refer to renal dietician for patient/family education.

Corticosteroid and Prophylactic Antibiotics

See First Presentation Treatment and Relapse Treatment Protocols.


All children are recommended to receive the pneumococcal vaccine as part of the WA Immunisation Schedule at 2, 4 and 12 months of age with Prevenar13. Children with nephrotic syndrome require additional pneumococcal vaccines (given ideally at diagnosis) with the following: 


Prevenar 13 (PCV13) at:  

  • 6 months of age OR on commencement of immunosuppressive therapy if older than 12 months. 
  • NB Prevenar13 (PCV13) is to be given at least ≥8 weeks after the last Prevenar13 dose.


Pneumovax 23 (PPV23) at: 
  • 4 years of age (if persisting or relapsing nephrotic syndrome) OR on commencement of immunosuppressive therapy if older than 4 years. 
  • NB Pneumovax23 (PPV23) is to be given at least ≥8 weeks after the last Prevenar13 dose.

Nephrotic Syndrome Treatment Protocol

First presentation Treatment Protocol 
  First 4 weeks  Next 4 weeks
Oral corticosteroids Once Daily Prednisolone^ (9-11)
Dose*: 60mg/m2 (to nearest 5mg)
<12 years up to max 60mg / dose 
≥12 years up to max 80mg / dose
Alternate day Prednisolone 
Dose: 40mg/m2
<12 years up to max 40mg / dose
≥12 years up to max 60mg / dose
Oral antibiotics

Once daily Amoxicillin

All ages: 20mg/kg/ dose (max 250mg)

Cease antibiotics

(Refer to Pneumococcal Disease chapter in the Australian Immunisation Handbook)
As per WA Immunisation schedule 
plus additional pneumococcal vaccines at commencement of steroids:
If ≥6months to 4years – give an extra dose of Prevenar13
If  ≥4years – give Prevenar13 (followed 8 weeks later by Pneumovax23) 

* If oedematous, an estimated IBW should be used to calculate Body Surface Area.

^ To be taken with food. Consider gastrointestinal protection (omeprazole or ranitidine) if signs / symptoms of gastric discomfort during corticosteroid therapy.

≠ Refer to Asplenia / Hyposplenia Vaccination and Prophylaxis protocol and consult Infectious Disease team for patients with penicillin allergy.


Relapse Treatment Protocol 
  Until in remission for 3 consecutive days: Next 4 weeks:
Oral corticosteroids Once Daily Prednisolone^ 
Dose: 60mg/m2 
<12 years up to max 60mg / dose 
≥12 years up to max 80mg / dose
Alternate day Prednisolone ^
Dose: 40mg/m2
<12 years up to max 40mg / dose
≥12 years up to max 60mg / dose
Oral antibiotics Once daily Amoxicillin≠
All ages: 20mg/kg/dose (max 250mg)
Cease antibiotics

Managing acute complications

Hypovolaemia / Severe Oedema:

  • Note: oedematous patients can also have intravascular volume depletion
  • Intravenous Albumin 20%: 
    • 1g/kg (5mL/kg) administered over 4-6 hours
  • IV Frusemide 0.5 - 1mg/kg (max 80mg)8 mid infusion; repeated at end of infusion if severe oedema or poor response.
  • Caution: Patients with a raised serum creatinine may have difficulty excreting 20% albumin and are at risk of active pulmonary oedema. Volume repletion with sodium chloride 0.9% or albumin 4% may be required. Consult a nephrologist.
  • The use of diuretics to treat intravascular volume overload should be approached with caution. Please discuss with a Nephrologist to avoid Acute Kidney Injury or intravascular depletion.


  • Most patients with typical NS will be normotensive. Transient hypertension may be displayed in a small number of patients as a result of intravascular depletion.
  • Persistent hypertension may be an indicator of an atypical presentation or alternative diagnosis and advice should be sought from a nephrology specialist.
    • Short-acting antihypertensive agent (e.g. isradipine - Medication Manual (internal WA Health only)9 may be considered for systolic BP >99th centile (centile charts – see RCH Resources).
    • Persistent hypertension >95th centile, may benefit from longer acting agents.

Nephrologist Referral

Referral to a paediatric nephrologist should be made should any of the following features be present at first presentation or at any time during the course of treatment: 

Age < 1 year or >12 years
At first presentation
Family history of Nephrotic Syndrome

Atypical signs and symptoms at presentation (or develops during the clinical course)
Macroscopic haematuria 
Persistent hypertension
Elevated serum creatinine
Failure to respond to treatment 
Two or more relapses within six months of initial presentation 
Four or more relapses within any 12 month period
Corticosteroid dependency
Two or more relapses while on corticosteroids 
Two or more relapses within 14 days of ceasing corticosteroids
Extra-renal symptoms Rash, arthralgia, aphthous ulcers, alopecia 

Discharge planning and education

Patients and carers should commence education early in the admission and referrals made to the Renal Dietitian and the Renal CNS.  An education plan must include: 
  • Dietary management advice on ‘no added salt diet’ and fluid restrictions. 
  • How and when to perform urine dipstick and interpret the result.
  • How to recognise signs and symptoms of relapse.
  • Explanation of the child’s individualised ‘Nephrotic Syndrome Relapse Treatment Plan’ with the patient / carer.  
  • When to present to the Emergency Department and / or seek urgent medical advice.
  • Ensure Prevenar13 vaccination has been administered, and if ≥4years, a Pneumovax23 is required 8 weeks after Prevenar13 dose. 

Outpatient schedule

  • Patients with NS will be reviewed by the treating medical team for 12 months after first presentation at the following intervals:
    • 1 week post discharge
    • 4 weeks post discharge
    • 3 months, 6 months and 12 months.
  • Follow-up will then continue with 6 monthly clinic reviews alternating between the Nephrotic CNS clinic and the child’s named Consultant.
  • Should the child’s signs / symptoms become atypical in nature, clinic visits and follow up will be increased accordingly.


  • There is risk of developing cataracts with prolonged, repeat dosing of corticosteroids13
  • Children who have two or more relapses in one year should be referred for an ophthalmology assessment.  


Nephrotic Syndrome Relapse Treatment Plan 

  • Each child will have an individualised Nephrotic Syndrome Relapse Treatment Plan that will outline the steroid and antibiotic dosing regimen and fluid restriction (plus medication for gastrointestinal protection if warranted). 
    • The plan must be reviewed and signed by the treating Consultant and Clinical Pharmacist.  
  • If the child remains clinically well, the treatment plan can be initiated at home after confirmation of relapse by a telephone call to the Renal CNS or treating medical team.

Renal CNS role:

The Renal CNS will maintain regular telephone contact with the family to keep updated with the child’s progress.
  • In the event of suspected relapse, the Renal CNS will be the first point of contact for the family (business hours: Monday-Friday, 0800-1600).
  • With the parent /carers consent the school will be sent written notification of the child’s condition and treatment plan. A school visit can be arranged in cases where a letter is not sufficient.
  • Referrals from PCH staff to the Nephrotic CNS Clinic can be made using eReferrals for attention of Dawn Stacey and Sharon Stacey.


  1. Hahn D, Hodson EM, Willis NS, Craig JC. Corticosteroid therapy for nephrotic syndrome in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2015 (3). PubMed PMID: CD001533. [Level I ]
  2. Larkins N, Kim S, Craig J and Hodson E.  Steroid-sensitive nephrotic syndrome: an evidence-based update of immunosuppressive treatment in children.  Arch Dis Child. 2015 Aug 19; 0:1-5. Available from
  3. Niaudet P, Mattoo TK and Sim, MS. Treatment of idiopathic nephrotic syndrome in children. Up To Date. 2018 [updated May 2018]. Topic 6130, Version 40.0
  4. Hodson, E, Evaluation and management of steroid-sensitive nephrotic syndrome. Current Opinion in Pediatrics.  Issue: Volume 20(2), April 2008, p 145–150
  5. Saag KG & Furst DE Major side effects of systemic glucocorticoids. Up To Date. March 12, 2018. [reviewed Aug 2018] Topic 7988 Version 18.0
  6. Torres RA, Torres BR, de Castilho ASR, Honorato R. Venous sinus thrombosis in a child with nephrotic syndrome: a case report and literature review. Revista Brasileira de Terapia Intensiva. 2014;26(4):430-4. PubMed PMID: PMC4304474.
  7. Radhakrishnan J. Renal vein thrombosis and hypercoagulable state in nephrotic syndrome. Up To Date; 2017.
  8. Niaudet P, Mattoo TK, and, Kim MS. Complications of nephrotic syndrome in children: Up To Date; 2018 [updated May 2018]. Topic 6102, Version 14.0
  9. Australian Medicines Handbook Pty Ltd.  Last modified July 2018.
  10. Schijvens AM, ter Heine R, de Wildt SN and Schreuder MF. Pharmacology and pharmacogenetics of prednisone and prednisolone in patients with nephrotic syndrome.  Pediatric Nephrology. 2018. Retrieved from:
  11. Teeninga N, Kist-van Holthe J, van Rijskwijk N, de Mos N, Wetzels JF, Nauta J: Extending prednisolone therapy does not reduce relapse in childhood nephrotic syndrome. J Am Soc Nephrol 24: 149–159, 2012
  12. Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI). The Australian Immunisation Handbook . Australian Government Department of Health, Canberra: 2018
  13. Junping L,  Tripathi RC and Tripathi BJ. Drug-Induced Ocular Disorders.  Drug Safety (2008) 31 (2): 127-141 

Approved by:  CAHS Medication Safety Committee
Date: Sept 2021
Endorsed by:  CAHS Drug and Therapeutic Committee
Date: Oct 2021

Review date:  Sept 2024

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