Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
In this Article
- What is hydronephrosis?
- What causes hydronephrosis?
- What are the symptoms of hydronephrosis?
- When should I seek medical care for hydronephrosis?
- How is hydronephrosis diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for hydronephrosis?
- What are the complications of hydronephrosis?
- Can hydronephrosis be prevented?
- Hydronephrosis At A Glance
What are the complications of hydronephrosis?
If hydronephrosis remains untreated, the increased pressure within the kidney may decrease the ability of the kidney to filter blood, remove waste products, and make urine as well as regulate the electrolytes in the body. Hydronephrosis can lead to kidney infections (pyelonephrosis), sepsis, and in some cases, complete kidney function loss or death. Kidney function will begin decreasing almost immediately with the onset of hydronephrosis but is reversible if the swelling resolves. Usually kidneys recover well even if there is an obstruction lasting up to 6 weeks.
The term acute hydronephrosis may be used when after resolution of the kidney swelling, kidney function returns to normal. Chronic hydronephrosis may be used to describe the situation where kidney function is lost even if the obstruction and swelling have resolved.
Can hydronephrosis be prevented?
Since hydronephrosis is a situation that occurs because of an underlying cause, prevention depends upon avoiding the underlying cause. For example, individuals with kidney stones that cause ureteral obstruction and hydronephrosis may try to decrease the chance of a recurrent stone by keeping well hydrated.
Hydronephrosis At A Glance
- Hydronephrosis describes swelling of the kidney with the inability of urine
to drain from the kidney into the bladder.
- Hydroureter describes swelling of the ureter, the tube that connects the
kidney to the bladder.
- The obstruction may occur at any level in the urinary collecting system
from the kidney to the ureter to the bladder to the urethra.
- Depending on the level of the cause, hydronephrosis may be unilateral
involving one kidney or bilateral involving both.
- The increased pressure caused by hydronephrosis potentially can compromise
kidney function if it is not relieved in a reasonable period of time.
- Symptoms of hydronephrosis depend upon whether the swelling occurs acutely
or progresses more gradually. If it is an acute obstruction, symptoms may
include writhing pain, nausea, and vomiting.
- Treatment of hydronephrosis and hydroureter is aimed at restoring urine flow from the affected kidney.
eMedicine.com. Hydronephrosis and Hydroureter.
Mulhollad MW, et al. Greenfield's Surgery Scientific Principles and Practice. 4th edition 2006 Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
WebMd.com. Kidney Stones - Treatment Overview
Last Editorial Review: 4/5/2010
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