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Acute Kidney Injury

Acute Kidney Injury

What is the Function of the Kidney?

There are many functions the kidneys must perform to keep your body in a healthy state. In short, the role of the kidneys is to clean the blood. This includes clearing out excess fluid, tidying up electrolytes and acid that is generated throughout the day.

One could compare our kidneys to the washing machine in our homes. In order for the washing machine to operate correctly, it must have power coming to it, the internal mechanics of the machine must be functioning correctly and the waste must adequately be able to drain.

If at any point along the process there is a malfunction, then the kidneys – much like your washing machine – will not be able to perform their purpose. This is what happens in a process that is called Acute Kidney Injury (AKI).

What Causes Acute Kidney Injury?

When your heart pumps, approximately 30% of the blood is directed to the kidney. When there is a problem with how the heart is pumping (i.e. heart failure), dehydration, low blood pressure as a result of an overwhelming infection, or other cause, then the kidney is unable to clean the blood. 

At times, a person may have an obstruction to prevent urine from being removed. In this situation, urine can back up into the kidney and cause the inability of the kidney to perform its job. If the obstruction, frequently caused by a prostate issue, kidney stone, or other sources for urinary retention, is relieved quickly then the kidney once again can perform its purpose of cleaning the blood.

Treatments for Acute Kidney Injury

There are other conditions where the internal machinery of the kidney is directly affected to cause the malfunction. These disorders need to be evaluated quickly and depending on the diagnosis may require a variety of treatments.

Sometimes these measures won’t be enough to restore adequate kidney function and an artificial machine will be required to take over the job of the malfunctioning kidneys. This is where dialysis may be required.

With acute kidney injury, there is the potential for your kidney function to gradually improve over the course of several weeks to even months to where dialysis may no longer be needed. On occasion, the kidneys may be beyond repair. At that time, your nephrologist would discuss long-term options, such as kidney transplantation or permanent dialysis.

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