Casts are cylindrical bodies formed either in the distal convoluted tubules or the collecting ducts of the kidney. Since the walls of the tubule act as a mold for cast formation, the width of the tubule determines the width of the cast. Thus, narrow casts are formed in the distal tubules while broad casts are formed in the collecting ducts.
The matrix of all casts is thought to be Tamm-Horsfall protein, a glycoprotein secreted by the distal loop of Henle and the distal tubule. This protein entraps cells and granular material of tubular origin.
Very few casts are seen in the urine of a person without renal disease, except for hyaline casts, which may be transiently present after strenuous exercise, and during fever, diuretic therapy, and congestive heart failure.
A significant number of urinary casts usually indicates the presence of renal disease.