Icon - Acute kidney injury

Acute kidney injury

What is acute kidney injury?

Acute kidney injury is sudden damage to the kidneys. In many cases it will be short term and your kidney function can continue to recover over time; however, long-term outcomes can vary from:

  • full recovery and normal kidney function
  • partial recovery with lower levels of kidney function, but no dialysis needed
  • permanent kidney damage that requires dialysis.

People who have a history of acute kidney injury have a higher risk of chronic kidney disease, which you can see more about here.

Causes of acute kidney injury

The main causes are:

  • reduced blood supply to the kidneys (for example as a result of major surgery or a heart attack)
  • damage to the actual kidney tissue caused by a drug, severe infection or radioactive dye
  • obstruction to urine leaving the kidney (for example because of kidney stones or an enlarged prostate).

People who have chronic kidney disease are also at increased risk of acute kidney injury.

Identifying acute kidney injury

The kidney damage usually occurs quite quickly over a matter of days (compared to the months or years for chronic kidney disease to develop).

This leads to reduced output of urine, a sudden rise in toxins in the body, as well as a rapid build up of fluid.

Acute kidney injury may be diagnosed if you have a sharp increase in the levels of creatinine in your blood, or if your urine output is significantly decreased.

Treating acute kidney injury

The goals of treatment are to:

  • find and treat the cause of the acute kidney injury
  • use medications to support the kidneys
  • closely monitor the urine output and creatinine levels to check for toxins and assess kidney function.

Severe acute kidney injury may require dialysis treatment for one to two weeks while the kidneys recover.  

See more about Centre-based dialysis here.

What happens to the kidneys after the injury?

After acute kidney injury, long-term outcomes can vary from:

  • full recovery and normal kidney function
  • partial recovery with lower levels of kidney function, but no dialysis needed
  • permanent kidney damage that requires dialysis.

After an acute kidney injury your kidney function can continue to recover over time. People who have a history of acute kidney injury have a higher risk of chronic kidney disease.

It is recommended that you have a Kidney Health Check performed by your doctor every year for the first three years following an acute kidney injury.

Find out more about a Kidney Health Check here.

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