Hydronephrosis is when one or both kidneys swell with backed up urine. This swelling can lead to kidney damage.
Hydronephrosis is not a condition but a symptoms of another condition.
Hydronephrosis is caused by urinary tract problems that makes it difficult for urine to leave the kidneys. Urine may be slowed or blocked by:
Other conditions that may cause problems with urine flow include:
In most cases, the child is born with one of these conditions that affect the urinary tract. For some, the condition develops later on.
In mild cases, there may not be any symptoms. If the condition is more severe, symptoms may include:
The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor may be able to feel the swollen kidney during the physical exam. The diagnosis may be confirmed with images of the kidneys. Images may be taken with:
Urine and blood tests may also be done to look for any changes in kidney function.
Other tests may be done to look for the cause of the hydronephrosis. This may include:
Hydronephrosis that develops before birth will often resolve on its own without kidney damage. The doctor will continue to monitor the kidneys until the swelling has gone away.
When necessary, the condition causing the back up of urine will be treated. This may include surgery or medication.
If the hydronephrosis is causing painful symptoms and there are signs of kidney damage, the urine may need to be drained. A tube may be placed through the skin to the kidneys to allow the urine to drain.
In many cases, hydronephrosis cannot be prevented. If your child has bladder problems talk to the doctor about methods to make sure the bladder empties as needed.
American Kidney Fund
National Kidney Foundation
BC Children’s Hospital
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
Hydronephrosis. Children’s Hospital Boston website. Available at: http://www.childre... . Accessed June 25, 2013.
Dr. Kurzrock. University of California Davis Health SYstem website. Available at: http://www.childre... . Accessed June 25, 2013.
Hydronephrosis. University of California San Francisco Benioff Children's Hospital website. Available at: http://www.childre... . Accessed June 25, 2013.
Last reviewed March 2013 by Michael Woods, MD