Acute Kidney Injury

Acute Kidney Injury


Acute kidney injury also known as acute kidney failure, is a sudden onset of kidney failure that occurs over a period of a few hours to days. Acute kidney injury causes a dangerous build-up of waste in the blood stream that the kidney cannot filter out. Acute kidney failure is common in patients who are already hospitalised or bed-ridden. The condition can be fatal and requires immediate medical attention.

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of acute kidney injury may include reduced urine output, fluid retention or swelling, shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, weakness, chest pains or seizures. In severe cases, the patient may fall into a coma. Sometimes acute kidney failure doesn’t cause any symptoms, but is accidentally detected on medical tests done for other reasons.

Causes and Risk Factors

Acute kidney failure could be caused by conditions that reduce blood flow to the kidneys, including hypertension, dehydration, heart attack, organ failure, burns, injury or major surgery. Over-use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can also reduce blood flow to the kidneys and cause acute kidney failure. Sepsis, multiple myeloma, vasculitis, interstitial nephritis or scleroderma could also trigger acute kidney failure. Blockages of the urinary tract caused by cancer, enlarged prostate or kidney stones can also result in acute kidney failure. The condition tends to occur more often in patients with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart failure, peripheral artery disease and liver disease. Older geriatric patients have a higher risk of experiencing acute kidney failure.


Acute kidney failure could cause other complications in the body such as fluid build-up, chest pain, permanent kidney damage and possibly even death.


The diagnosis for acute kidney failure begins with a physical exam and patient medical history. Based on the suspected cause of the kidney failure, the doctor may perform different tests for identification. This could include a urine output test, urinalysis, blood tests to determine the levels of creatinine, urea, nitrogen phosphorous and potassium, glomerular filtration test, ultrasound scans and a kidney biopsy.


Acute kidney injury is a potentially fatal condition, typically requiring a hospital stay until the cause is identified and treated. The duration of treatment depends on the cause of the acute kidney injury and how quickly the patient’s body responds. The patient is given intravenous fluids or diuretics to balance the fluids in the body. They may also be given medication to control blood potassium and calcium levels. In more serious cases, dialysis treatment may be required at periodic intervals, to remove accumulated toxins from the blood.


It is difficult to predict when acute kidney injury may occur. If you have pre-existing kidney conditions, you can consult with your doctor to work out a lifestyle program to keep your risk low.

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