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Obstructive uropathy

Definition

Obstructive uropathy is a condition in which the flow of urine is blocked. This causes the urine to back up back up and injure one or both kidneys.

Alternative Names

Uropathy - obstructive

Causes

Obstructive uropathy occurs when urine cannot drain through a ureter (a tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder). Urine backs up into the kidney and causes it to become swollen (hydronephrosis).

Obstructive uropathy can affect one or both kidneys. It can occur suddenly, or be a long-term problem.

Common causes of obstructive uropathy include:

Rarely, the problem occurs during pregnancy. This condition is called idiopathic hydronephrosis of pregnancy.

Symptoms

Symptoms depend on whether the problem starts slowly or suddenly, and if one or both kidneys are involved. Symptoms may include:

  • Mild to severe pain in the side of the body and the back (flank pain). The pain may be felt on one or both sides.
  • Fever
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weight gain or swelling (edema)

You may also have problems passing urine, such as:

  • Urge to urinate often
  • Decrease in the force of urine stream
  • Dribbling of urine
  • Not feeling as if the bladder is emptied
  • Need to urinate more often at night
  • Decreased amount of urine
  • Blood in urine

Exams and Tests

Imaging studies are done to diagnose obstructive uropathy. Commonly used tests include:

Treatment

Stents or drains placed in the ureter or in a part of the kidney called the renal pelvis may provide short-term relief of symptoms.

Nephrostomy tubes, which drain urine from the kidneys through the back, may be used to bypass the blockage.

A Foley catheter, placed through the urethra into the bladder, may also be help urine flow.

Short-term relief from the blockage is possible without surgery. However, the cause of the blockage must be removed and the urinary system repaired. Surgery may be needed for long-term relief from the problem.

Outlook (Prognosis)

If the blockage comes on suddenly, kidney damage is less likely if the problem is detected and repaired promptly. Often, the damage to the kidneys goes away.Long-term damage to the kidneys may occur if the blockage has been present for a long time.

If only one kidney is damaged, chronic kidney problems are less likely.

You may need dialysis or a kidney transplant if there is damage to both kidneys and they do not function, even after the obstruction is repaired.

Possible Complications

Obstructive uropathy can cause permanent and severe damage to the kidneys, resulting in kidney failure.

If the problem was caused by a blockage in the bladder, the bladder may have long-term damage. This may lead to problems emptying the bladder or leakage of urine.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of obstructive uropathy or suspect you may have this condition.

Prevention

Obstructive uropathy can be prevented by treating disorders that can cause it.

References

Zeidel ML. Obstructive uropathy. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 125.

Singh I, Strandhoy JW, Assimos DG. Pathophysiology of urinary tract obstruction. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 40.


Review Date: 3/26/2014
Reviewed By: Sovrin M. Shah, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Urology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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