Navigate Up

Full Library - A-Z Index


Print This Page

Unilateral hydronephrosis

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

Alternative Names

Hydronephrosis; Chronic hydronephrosis; Acute hydronephrosis; Urinary obstruction

Causes

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

Unilateral hydronephrosis occurs in about 1 in 100 people.

Symptoms

Common symptoms include:

  • Flank pain
  • Abdominal mass
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Fever
  • Painful urination (dysuria)
  • Increased urinary frequency
  • Increased urinary urgency

In some cases, there may be no symptoms.

Exams and Tests

The condition is found on an imaging test such as:

Treatment

Treatment depends on the cause of the kidney swelling. Treatment may include:

  • A ureteral stent (tube that allows the ureter to drain into the bladder)
  • A nephrostomy tube (allows the blocked urine to drain out of the body into a drainage bag)
  • Antibiotics for infections

People who have only one kidney, who have immune system disorders such as diabetes or HIV, or who have had a transplant will need prompt treatment.

People who have long-term hydronephrosis may need antibiotics to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Loss of kidney function may occur if the condition is left untreated.

Possible Complications

If hydronephrosis is left untreated, the affected kidney may be permanently damaged. Kidney failure is rare if the other kidney is working normally. However, kidney failure will occur if there is only one functioning kidney.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have ongoing or severe flank pain, or fever, or if you think you may have hydronephrosis.

Prevention

Prevention of the disorders that cause this condition will prevent it from occurring.

References

Zeidel ML. Obstructive uropathy. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 125.

SinghI, Strandhoy JW, Assimos DG. Pathophysiology of urinary tract obstruction. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 40.

Updated: 3/26/2014

Sovrin M. Shah, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Urology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


¬©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com