Kidney Failure

  • 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: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

What causes kidney failure?

Kidney failure may occur from an acute situation that injures the kidneys or from chronic diseases that gradually cause the kidneys to stop functioning.

In acute renal failure, kidney function is lost rapidly and can occur from a variety of insults to the body. Since most people have two kidneys, both kidneys must be damaged for complete kidney failure to occur. Fortunately, if only one kidney fails or is diseased it can be removed, and the remaining kidney may continue to have normal kidney (renal) function. If a both patient's kidneys are injured or diseased, a donor kidney(s) may transplanted.

The list of causes of kidney failure is often categorized based on where the injury has occurred.

Prerenal causes (pre=before + renal=kidney) causes are due to decreased blood supply to the kidney. Examples of prerenal causes of kidney failure are:

  • Hypovolemia (low blood volume) due to blood loss
  • Dehydration from loss of body fluid (for example, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, fever)
  • Poor intake of fluids
  • Medication, for example, diuretics ("water pills") may cause excessive water loss
  • Abnormal blood flow to and from the kidney due to obstruction of the renal artery or vein.
Reviewed on 10/27/2016
References
Medically reviewed by Michael Wolff, MD; American Board of Urology

REFERENCE:

Longo DL, et al. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. 18th edition. McGraw Hill Professional. 2011.

Medscape. Renal Failure, Acute.

NIH. Amyloidosis and Kidney Disease. IMAGES:

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