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This topic provides
information about sudden kidney failure. If you are looking for information
about long-term kidney disease, see the topic
Chronic Kidney Disease.
Acute renal failure
(also called acute kidney injury) means that your
kidneys have suddenly stopped working. Your kidneys
remove waste products and help balance water and salt and other minerals (electrolytes) in your blood. When your kidneys stop
working, waste products, fluids, and electrolytes build up in your body. This
can cause problems that can be deadly.
failure has three main causes:
You have a greater chance of getting acute renal failure
Symptoms of acute renal
failure may include:
Some people may not have any symptoms. And for people who are already quite ill, the problem that's causing the kidney failure may be causing other symptoms.
Acute renal failure is most often diagnosed during a hospital stay for another cause. If you are already in the hospital, tests done for other problems
may find your kidney failure.
If you're not in the hospital but have symptoms of kidney failure, your doctor
will ask about your symptoms, what medicines you take, and what tests
you have had. Your symptoms can help point to the cause of your kidney
Blood and urine tests can check how well your kidneys are
working. A chemistry screen can show if you have normal levels of
calcium. You may also have an
ultrasound. This imaging test lets your doctor see
a picture of your kidneys.
Your doctor or a kidney
specialist (nephrologist) will try to treat the problem that is causing your
kidneys to fail. Treatment can vary widely, depending on the cause. For example, your doctor may need to restore blood flow to the kidneys, stop any medicines that may be causing the problem, or remove or bypass a blockage in the urinary tract.
At the same time, the doctor will try to:
You can help yourself heal by taking your medicines as
your doctor tells you to. You also may need to follow a special diet to keep
your kidneys from working too hard. You may need to limit sodium, potassium,
phosphorus. A dietitian can help you plan
About half the time, doctors can fix the problems that cause kidney
failure, and the treatment takes a few days or weeks. These people’s kidneys will work well enough
for them to live normal lives.
But other people may have permanent
kidney damage that leads to
chronic kidney disease. A small number of them
will need to have regular
dialysis or a
kidney transplant. Older people and those who are
very sick from other health problems may not get better. People who die usually
do so because of the health problem that caused their kidneys to fail.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Learning about acute renal failure:
UrologyHealth.org is a website written by urologists
for patients. Visitors can find specific topics by using the "search"
The website provides information about adult and
pediatric urologic topics, including kidney, bladder, and prostate conditions.
You can find a urologist, sign up for a free quarterly newsletter, or click on
the Urology A–Z page to find materials about urologic problems.
The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information
Clearinghouse (NKUDIC) provides information about diseases of the
kidneys and urologic system to people with these problems and to
their families, to health professionals, and to the public. NKUDIC answers
inquiries; develops, reviews, and distributes publications; and works closely
with professional and patient groups and government agencies to
coordinate resources about kidney and urologic diseases.
NKUDIC, a federal agency, is a service of the National
Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). NIDDK is part
of the National Institutes of Health under the U.S. Department of Health and
NKDEP is a program from the National
Institutes of Health (NIH) to help people who have kidney disease and to help their
doctors. The program helps people understand kidney disease. NKDEP wants to
help people who have diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of kidney
failure understand why it is important to know about kidney health. They offer
free educational materials and links to other resources.
The National Kidney Foundation works to prevent kidney
and urinary tract diseases and help people affected by these conditions. Its
website has a lot of information about adult and child conditions. The site
has interactive tools, donor information, recipes for kidney disease patients,
and message boards for many kidney topics. Free materials, such as brochures
and newsletters, are available.
Other Works Consulted
Liu KD, Chertow GM (2008). Acute renal failure. In AS Fauci et al., eds., Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 17th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1752–1761. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Sanders PW, Agarwal A (2010). Acute kidney injury. In EG Nabel, ed., ACP Medicine, section 10, chap. 6. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
May 10, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Tushar J. Vachharajani, MD, FASN, FACP - Nephrology
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