Important Facts about the Dilated Kidney

A dilated kidney literally means that the kidney is larger than normal. How does this happen? This is usually caused by some blockage in the urinary system and leads to slowing down of the flow of urine into the bladder and the kidney ends up retaining some of the urine. An obstruction at the point where the kidney and ureter meet or at the intersection of the ureter and bladder can lead to urine retention in the kidney and this can lead to the condition diagnosed as dilated kidney. The obstruction can be caused by some unusual growth or kidney stones or an enlarged prostrate. This problem is also sometimes called renal pelvis dilation and hydronephrosis. Doctors' response to a dilated kidney depends on the age and general health of the patient.

Sometimes an ultrasound during pregnancy may reveal a dilated kidney in a fetus and doctors are likely to advise the parents to wait and see as the obstruction may well clear itself before the actual birth or a in the early days. A child who continues to deal with a dilated kidney will be tested to see if the obstruction is mild or partial. A bladder x-ray and a renal scan will help assess the extent of the blockage. If the blockage is mild, the doctor is likely to continue a pattern of observing the child every six months to a year and will advise the parents to be especially alert to spikes in temperature. If the obstruction is complete, surgery will be recommended.

It is largely the same pattern for adults also. If the dilated kidney is not hampering any other bodily function and if the cause of the dilation is a mild obstruction, doctors may choose to monitor it rather than intervene in any way. A non-functional enlarged kidney can still stay in the body if it is not causing any other problems. Sometimes an enlarged kidney can lead to hypertension by secreting renin and it can also sometimes become infected.  These are the reasons that doctors carefully monitor the problem. Increased pain in the abdominal area, growing discomfort, possible urinary infection all need to be reported promptly to the doctor so that they can assess the progression of the problem. Patients sometimes worry that a dilated kidney may burst when the organ gets heavy and distended. But the truth is that this is unlikely because the kidney stops filtering and producing urine after a certain point when there is increased pressure from the fluid already collected.

Sometimes, a non-functioning kidney shrinks and becomes a mass of scar tissue. It is only when any of these problems interfere with the regular functioning of the human processes that medical intervention will be necessary. In such cases, a surgery may be needed to deal with the kidney itself or the original obstruction that caused the dilated kidney. In the case of a small obstruction or a shrunken kidney, laparoscopic surgery is a possibility and this is a less invasive procedure. The dilation will not shrink immediately after surgery and there may be no complete return to normal. Depending on the extent of the obstruction and the period for which the problem has affected a person, there will be some continued dilation of the kidney even after the surgery.

A dilated kidney is not an alarming condition in and off itself but it is something to be taken seriously so that you do not risk urinary tract infection or severe kidney damage. Staying on top of it by educating yourself about all the implications of a dilated kidney can make you a pro-active patient and will help you engage with your medical professional in planning your course of treatment.


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