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Acute Kidney Injury

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How is acute kidney injury diagnosed?

Acute kidney injury 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 problem.

If you're not in the hospital but have symptoms of kidney injury, 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 problem.

Blood and urine tests can check how well your kidneys are working. A chemistry screen can show if you have normal levels of sodium (salt), potassium, and calcium. You may also have an ultrasound. This imaging test lets your doctor see a picture of your kidneys.

How is it treated?

Your doctor or a kidney specialist (nephrologist) will try to treat the problem that is causing your kidney injury. 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:

  • Stop wastes from building up in your body. You may have dialysis. This treatment uses a machine to do the work of your kidneys until they recover. It will help you feel better.
  • Prevent other problems. You may take antibiotics to prevent or treat infections. You also may take other medicines to get rid of extra fluid and keep your body's minerals in balance.

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, and phosphorus. A dietitian can help you plan meals.

Does acute kidney injury cause lasting problems?

About half the time, doctors can fix the problems that cause kidney injury. 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.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 08, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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