Acute Kidney Injury

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The fellowship-trained, board-certified pediatric nephrologists with Norton Children’s Nephrology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, have the training and experience to treat children with acute kidney injuries. Our kidney specialists can work with you and your child to improve symptoms and limit damage to the kidneys.

What Is Acute Kidney Injury?

Acute kidney injury (AKI) is the name for sudden kidney failure over a period of hours or days. AKI usually is a complication from another condition. It is not an injury in the sense that the kidney was hit or bruised.

AKI is different from chronic kidney disease (CKD) in that it comes on quicker, and children with AKI can recover full kidney function. For children with CKD, the kidney damage progresses over time.

What Causes AKI?

Acute kidney injury can be caused by several issues, including:

  • Sudden and/or severe reduction in blood flow to the kidneys
  • Condition that suddenly causes kidney damage
  • Urinary tract blockage

Sudden reduced blood flow to the kidneys can be caused by:

  • Blood loss due to internal or external bleeding
  • Liver failure
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Severe allergic reaction
  • Severe burns
  • Severe dehydration
  • Surgery

Conditions that may cause damage to the kidneys can include:

  • Blood clots in the vessels to the kidneys
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS)
  • Interstitial nephritis (allergic reaction to certain kinds of medication)
  • Lupus
  • Sepsis (severe infection)

Urinary tract blockages that can cause AKI in children can include kidney stones, blood clots and bladder issues.

Acute Kidney Injury Symptoms

A child with AKI may have no physical signs at first. Symptoms often will happen suddenly and grow more intense. AKI symptoms can include:

  • Brown or red urine (blood in the urine)
  • Decreased amount of urine

Other symptoms may occur as kidney function declines, including:

  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Feeling very tired; lack of energy
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stomach pain
  • Swelling in the hands, feet or face around the eyes

The condition can come on and progress quickly, and can be life-threatening. Call your child’s pediatrician immediately if you notice signs of kidney issues.

Acute Kidney Injury Treatment

Treatment for AKI focuses on treating the cause of the kidney injury, as well as the child’s current health. Treatments can include:

  • Antibiotics to remove infection
  • Ceasing any medications that may cause kidney issues
  • Increasing fluids, which may include intravenous (IV) fluids and nutrition
  • Medicines to control blood pressure

A child may need to be monitored in a hospital for AKI. Should AKI remain undetected or treatment is unable to reverse kidney damage, dialysis and kidney transplantation may be needed. In some cases, the condition can progress to chronic kidney disease.

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