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Christopher Lu, M.D. Answers Questions On Acute Kidney Injury

Christopher Lu, M.D. Answers Questions On: Acute Kidney Injury

What causes acute kidney injury?

Acute kidney injury occurs in two scenarios. First, a patient is in the hospital, and he or she gets sick. Any time someone gets sick, the kidneys can get injured. Often this happens in a patient who has had a complication from surgery or had to go to an ICU after having a serious infection or heart attack.

The second scenario is what we call subclinical acute kidney injury. In this case, the patient doesn’t end up going to the hospital but suffers a little hypotension from a viral syndrome or other condition. And if the patient has underlying kidney disease, that can make it worse.

What actually happens to the kidneys when they experience an injury?

When the kidney is severely injured, your blood pressure goes up, you retain some water and poisons, and you feel sleepy and very sick.

With modern medicine though, we can determine injury before you feel sick at all by using blood tests. That's the goal – to stop the process before there's too much damage; doing so is going to lead to a better long-term result.

Whenever we think there's a risk of acute kidney injury, we follow lab tests very carefully and try to address the injury very early.

How is acute kidney injury treated?

First, we try to treat the kidney to avoid an injury altogether. There might be medications that are necessary to help with things such as blood pressure.

Then, the other piece of it is to treat the consequences of the fact that the kidney's not working well. That might mean medications to control the water or poisons that the kidney isn't getting rid of.

How can you prevent acute kidney injury in the first place?

First and foremost, by staying in general good health. If you have diabetes, control your diabetes. If you have high blood pressure, control your high blood pressure. Obesity is bad for your kidneys, so work to maintain a good body weight. You shouldn't smoke. You should exercise.

The kidneys are like every other part of the body. Take care of yourself, and your kidneys will probably feel a lot better. If you come into high-risk situations, that's where you need a nephrologist to help prevent problems.