Renal Artery Stenosis

  • Medical Author:
    Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH

    Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.

  • 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.

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Renal artery stenosis facts

  • Elevated blood pressure (hypertension) is common and is generally simply treated with medications.
  • Likewise, various other methods are used to treat the large majority of patients with kidney failure.
  • There is a small subgroup of patients with high blood pressure or renal failure caused by renal artery stenosis.
  • Some of these patients may respond favorably to dilating the narrowed artery, using the technique of angioplasty.
  • The patients that can benefit from angioplasty have a severe stenosis (75 % or greater narrowing) of the renal artery and do not have a very high renal vascular resistance.

What are the renal arteries?

Renal refers to anything related to the kidneys. Renal arteries carry blood from the heart to the kidneys. They branch directly from the aorta (the main artery coming off the heart) on either side and extend to each kidney. These arteries take a very large volume of blood to the kidneys to be filtered.

The heart pumps out approximately 5 liters of blood per minute, and about 1-1.5 liters (25%) of the total volume of blood pumped by the heart passes through the kidneys every minute.

What is renal artery stenosis?

Renal artery stenosis (narrowing) is a decrease in the diameter of the renal arteries. The resulting restriction of blood flow to the kidneys may lead to impaired kidney function (renal failure) and high blood pressure (hypertension), referred to as renovascular hypertension, or RVHT ("reno" for kidney and "vascular" for blood vessel).

Renovascular hypertension is as likely to occur with bilateral stenosis (when arteries to both kidneys are narrowed) as with unilateral stenosis (when the artery to one kidney is narrowed). The decreased blood flow to the kidneys impairs renal function. Renal artery stenosis may cause renal failure in some patients. There is no predictable relationship between renal failure and renal artery stenosis. Some patients have very severe bilateral stenosis and normal renal function. Most cases of renal failure are related to diabetes, hypertension, glomerular sclerosis, contrast nephropathy, drug toxicity and other causes.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/4/2015
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