Acute Renal Failure

Acute kidney failure occurs when your kidneys suddenly become unable to filter waste products from your blood.

What is Acute Renal Failure?

Acute kidney failure occurs when your kidneys suddenly become unable to filter waste products from your blood. When your kidneys lose their filtering ability, dangerous levels of wastes may accumulate and your blood’s chemical makeup may get out of balance.

Acute kidney failure — also called acute renal failure or acute kidney injury — develops rapidly over a few hours or a few days. Acute kidney failure is most common in people who are already hospitalized, particularly in critically ill people who need intensive care.

Acute kidney failure can be fatal and requires intensive treatment. However, acute kidney failure may be reversible. If you’re otherwise in good health, you may recover normal kidney function.

Symptoms of Acute Renal Failure

Signs and symptoms of acute kidney failure may include:

  • Decreased urine output, although occasionally urine output remains normal
  • Fluid retention, causing swelling in your legs, ankles or feet
  • Drowsiness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Seizures or coma in severe cases
  • Chest pain or pressure

Sometimes acute kidney failure causes no signs or symptoms and is detected through lab tests done for another reason.

Causes of Acute Renal Failure

Acute kidney failure can occur when:

  • You have a condition that slows blood flow to your kidneys
  • You experience direct damage to your kidneys
  • Your kidneys’ urine drainage tubes (ureters) become blocked and wastes can’t leave your body through your urine

Impaired blood flow to the kidneys

Diseases and conditions that may slow blood flow to the kidneys and lead to kidney failure include:

  • Blood or fluid loss
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Heart attack
  • Heart disease
  • Infection
  • Liver failure
  • Use of aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen (Aleve, others), or related drugs
  • Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
  • Severe burns
  • Severe dehydration

Damage to the kidneys

These diseases, conditions and agents may damage the kidneys and lead to acute kidney failure:

  • Blood clots in the veins and arteries in and around the kidneys
  • Cholesterol deposits that block blood flow in the kidneys
  • Glomerulonephritis (gloe-mer-u-loe-nuh-FRY-tis), inflammation of the tiny filters in the kidneys (glomeruli)
  • Hemolytic uremic syndrome, a condition that results from premature destruction of red blood cells
  • Infection
  • Lupus, an immune system disorder causing glomerulonephritis
  • Medications, such as certain chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, dyes used during imaging tests and zoledronic acid (Reclast, Zometa), used to treat osteoporosis and high blood calcium levels (hypercalcemia)
  • Multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells
  • Scleroderma, a group of rare diseases affecting the skin and connective tissues
  • Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), a rare blood disorder
  • Toxins, such as alcohol, heavy metals and cocaine
  • Vasculitis, an inflammation of blood vessels

Urine blockage in the kidneys

Diseases and conditions that block the passage of urine out of the body (urinary obstructions) and can lead to acute kidney failure include:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Blood clots in the urinary tract
  • Cervical cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Kidney stones
  • Nerve damage involving the nerves that control the bladder
  • Prostate cancer

Test and Diagnosis

If your signs and symptoms suggest that you have acute kidney failure, your doctor may recommend tests and procedures to verify your diagnosis. These may include:

  • Urine output measurements: The amount of urine you excrete in a day may help your doctor determine the cause of your kidney failure.
  • Urine tests: Analyzing a sample of your urine, a procedure called urinalysis, may reveal abnormalities that suggest kidney failure.
  • Blood tests: A sample of your blood may reveal rapidly rising levels of urea and creatinine — two substances used to measure kidney function.
  • Imaging tests: Imaging tests such as ultrasound and computerized tomography (CT) may be used to help your doctor see your kidneys.
  • Removing a sample of kidney tissue for testing: In certain situations, your doctor may recommend a kidney biopsy to remove a small sample of kidney tissue for lab testing. To remove a sample of kidney tissue, your doctor may insert a thin needle through your skin and into your kidney.

Source: Mayo Clinic

This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only.