Acute Care Services

What is acute kidney injury?

Acute kidney injury or AKI (also called acute renal failure) is a sudden episode of kidney failure or kidney damage triggered by an incident or accident. AKI causes a build-up of waste products in your blood and makes it difficult for your kidneys to keep the right fluid balance in your body. Acute kidney injury can also affect other vital organs. It is more common in older adults.

Causes of acute kidney injury

Acute kidney injury can be triggered by different factors. A sudden, serious drop in blood flow to the kidneys due to heavy blood loss, an injury, or a bad infection called sepsis may cause AKI. Not enough fluid in the body (dehydration) can also harm the kidneys.
Some people who have serious, long-term health problems are more likely than others to have a kidney problem from medicines, poisons, or infections. Examples of medicines that can sometimes harm the kidneys include:

  • Antibiotics, such as gentamicin and streptomycin
  • Pain medicines, such as aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Some blood pressure medicines, such as ACE inhibitors
  • Dyes used in some X-ray tests

Another cause of AKI is a sudden blockage that stops urine from flowing out of the kidneys due to kidney stones, a tumor, an injury, or an enlarged prostate gland. Low blood pressure, cardiac attack or cardiac failure as well as organ failure can also lead to acute kidney disease.

How to detect and treat acute kidney injury?

Depending on the cause of your acute kidney injury, your renal physician will recommend different tests. The usual tests recommended for acute kidney injury are as follows:

  • Measuring urine output : This helps to track how much urine you pass each day to help find the cause of your injury
  • Urine tests : This helps to look at your urine (urinalysis) to find out signs of kidney failure
  • Blood tests : Blood tests help find levels of creatinine, urea nitrogen phosphorus and potassium
  • Imaging tests : Imaging tests like ultrasound helps to detect abnormality in kidney function
  • Kidney biopsy : This helps to inspect your kidney with a special needle, and looked at under a microscope

Treatment for acute kidney injury usually requires hospitalization. In serious cases, dialysis is required to help replace kidney function until your kidneys recover. Even after recovering from acute kidney injury, it is important to follow up with your renal physician on a regular basis.

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