• Medical Author:
    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.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    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.

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, 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.

Medically reviewed by Michael Wolff, MD; American Board of Urology


"Hydronephrosis and Hydroureter." eMedicine.com. Updated July 18, 2016.

Mulhollad MW, et al. Greenfield's Surgery Scientific Principles and Practice.  4th edition 2006 Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

WebMd.com. Kidney Stones - Treatment Overview

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/2/2016

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