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Acute Kidney Injury


Acute kidney injury, also called acute renal failure, is the sudden loss of kidney function. When acute kidney injury occurs, the kidneys are unable to remove waste products and excess fluids, which then build up in the body and upset the body's normal chemical balance.

The most common causes of acute kidney injury are dehydration, blood loss from major surgery or injury, or medicines such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics, or the dyes (contrast agents) used in X-ray tests.

Symptoms depend on the cause of the problem and can include:

  • Little or no urine output.
  • Dizziness upon standing.
  • Swelling, especially of the legs and feet.
  • Loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Feeling confused, anxious and restless, or sleepy.
  • Pain in the flank, which is felt just below the rib cage and above the waist on one or both sides of the back.

The treatment of acute kidney injury includes correcting the cause and supporting the kidneys with dialysis until proper functioning is restored. Most people who develop acute kidney injury are already in the hospital.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerTushar J. Vachharajani, MD, FASN, FACP - Nephrology
Last RevisedMay 8, 2013

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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