Laurie LaRusso, MS, ELS
Hydronephrosis a build-up of urine in the kidneys. The kidneys swell from the excess urine which cannot drain into the bladder. The condition may affect one or both kidneys. Hydronephrosis is not a disease, but a symptom of a problem with the urinary system.
Hydronephrosis is caused by
2 problems in the urinary system:
Factors that may increase your chance of hydronephrosis include:
Hydronephrosis may or may not cause any symptoms.
If symptoms occur, they may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. It may include a pelvic or rectal exam to feel for blockages. You may be referred to a urologist and/or nephrologist for further diagnosis and treatment.
Your bodily fuids may be tested. This can be done with:
Imaging tests may be done to evaluate the urinary system. This can be done with:
A catheter may be inserted into the bladder to drain excess urine from the kidney.
Some causes of hydronephrosis may also be managed with observation, such as pregnancy and
Treatment options include:
Depending on the cause, hydronephrosis may be treated with:
Surgery is not always needed, but it may be necessary in some cases. Procedures may include:
In general, the causes of hydronephrosis cannot be prevented. Prompt treatment of conditions that cause hydronephrosis reduces the risk of complications, such as
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
National Kidney Foundation
Kidney Foundation of Canada
Hydronephrosis. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at:
https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/hydronephrosis. Published 2015. Accessed June 1, 2016.
Kidney disease and kidney failure. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:
http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/kidney-disease/Pages/default.aspx. Accessed June 1, 2016.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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