Unilateral hydronephrosis

Definition

Unilateral hydronephrosis is swelling of one kidney due to a backup of urine.

See also:  Bilateral hydronephrosis

Causes

Hydronephrosis (kidney swelling) is a condition that occurs with a disease. It is not a disease itself. Conditions that are often associated with unilateral hydronephrosis include:

Unilateral hydronephrosis occurs in approximately 1 in 100 people.

Symptoms

Note: Sometimes unilateral hydronephrosis does not have symptoms.

Exams and Tests

Unilateral hydronephrosis is found on an imaging test such as:

Treatment

Treatment and prognosis for unilateral hydronephrosis depend on what is causing the kidney swelling. Treatment may include:

Patients who have only one kidney, who have immune-compromising disorders such as diabetes or HIV, or who have received a transplant should be treated promptly.

Preventative antibiotics may be prescribed to decrease the risk of urinary tract infections in patients who have long-term hydronephrosis.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Prolonged hydronephrosis results in the eventual loss of kidney function.

Possible Complications

If hydronephrosis is left untreated, the affected kidney may be permanently damaged. Kidney insufficiency or kidney failure is rare with unilateral hydronephrosis because the other kidney usually functions normally. However, if the patient has only one functioning kidney, kidney failure will occur.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have prolonged or severe flank pain, or if you suspect hydronephrosis.

Prevention

Prevention of the disorders associated with unilateral hydronephrosis will prevent this condition.


Review Date: 4/16/2012
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Louis S. Liou, MD, PhD, Chief of Urology, Cambridge Health Alliance, Visiting Assistant Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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