Acute kidney failureDefinition:
Acute (sudden) kidney failure is the sudden loss of the ability of the kidneys to remove waste and concentrate urine without losing electrolytes .
Alternative Names: Kidney failure; Renal failure; Renal failure - acute; ARF
Causes, incidence, and risk factors:
There are many possible causes of kidney damage. They include:
Signs and tests:
Examination and testing can help diagnose acute kidney failure and help rule out other problems that can affect kidney function.
Many patients have generalized swelling caused by fluid retention. The doctor will use a stethoscope to listen to the heart and lungs. A heart murmur, crackles in the lungs, inflammation of the lining of the heart (pericarditis), or other related to extra fluid may be heard.
The results of laboratory tests may change suddenly (within a few days to 2 weeks).
Once the cause is found, the goal of treatment is to restore kidney function and prevent fluid and waste from building up in the body while the kidneys heal. Usually, you have to stay overnight in the hospital for treatment.
The amount of liquid you eat (such as soup) or drink will be limited to the amount of urine you can produce. You will be told what you may and may not eat to reduce the build-up of toxins normally handled by the kidneys. This diet may be high in carbohydrates and low in protein , salt, and potassium.
You may need antibiotics to treat or prevent infection. Diuretics ("water pills") may be used to help the kidneys lose fluid.
It will be very important to avoid dangerous hyperkalemia (increased blood potassium levels) by using IV (intravenous ) calcium, glucose/insulin, or potassium exchange resin (Kayexalate).
Dialysis may be needed, and can make you feel better. It is not always necessary, but it can save your life if your serum potassium is dangerously high. Dialysis will also be used if your mental status changes, your potassium level starts to rise, you stop urinating, develop pericarditis , become overloaded with fluid, or cannot eliminate nitrogen waste products from your body.
The stress of having an illness can often be helped by joining a support group where members share common experiences and problems. See kidney disease - support group . Your local hospital or dialysis center can probably give you information on local support groups.
While acute kidney failure is potentially life-threatening and may require intensive treatment, the kidneys usually start working again within several weeks to months after the underlying cause has been treated.
In cases where this does not happen, chronic renal failure or end-stage renal disease develops. Death can occur, but is most common when kidney failure is caused by surgery, trauma, or severe infection in someone with heart disease , lung disease , or recent stroke . Old age, infection, loss of blood from the intestinal tract, and progression of kidney failure also increase the risk of death.
- Loss of blood in the intestines
- Chronic (ongoing) kidney failure
- End-stage renal disease
- Damage to the heart or nervous system
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Calling your health care provider:
Call your health care provider if your urine output slows or stops or you have other symptoms of acute kidney failure.
Treating disorders such as high blood pressure can help prevent acute kidney failure. Unfortunately, prevention is not always possible.
|Review Date: 8/3/2006|
Reviewed By: David M. Charytan, M.D., M.Sc., Department of Medicine, Division of Nephrology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-
A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.