Acute kidney injury is when your kidneys suddenly stop working.  You may have normal kidneys as a baseline or you may have chronic kidney disease and develop acute kidney injury.

Acute kidney injury is usually reversible.  That said, it is important that you have a kidney specialist (nephrologist) advising your care team when an acute kidney injury develops. 

You can develop acute kidney injury for a variety of reasons.  The most common reasons for acute kidney injury include:

Dehydration from any cause

Sudden change in blood flow to the kidney as in the case of body shock

Medications can shut the kidneys down. The dye that is used during CT scans or heart catheterizations, for example, can do this

Sometimes an infection causes the body to go into shock and acute kidney injury develops

When the heart is not able to pump blood to the kidney, the kidneys may shut down

If the flow of urine from both kidneys is blocked, acute kidney injury may develop

Our group is often asked to advise other medical care teams and physicians when a patient develops an acute kidney injury.  We provide care 24/7 at Yale New Haven Hospital, the Hospital of ST Raphael and Milford Hospital for the patients we are asked to see.  We also see patients as an out-patient for acute kidney injury when a hospital stay is not necessary.

Most cases of acute kidney injury get better once we diagnose why it occurred and make changes to the medical care of the patient such as giving intravenous fluids to a patient who is dehydrated.

Since the kidney is a very important organ with important jobs to do, we cannot tolerate living without it.   When the kidneys shut down for several days and do not improve, a patient may become sick.  Many patients start to complain of nausea and vomitting.  Sometimes patients become short of breath and develop swelling in their legs and abdomen. 

At this point, your medical care team and kidney specialist may suggest a therapy called dialysis to you.  Dialysis can help to do the job of the kidneys when the kidneys shut down quickly.  Your kidney specialist will determine when you need to consider dialysis.

Dialysis for patients with acute kidney injury can be very different than the traditional out-patient dialysis you may be aware of.  Your kidney specialist will describe any treatments with you and your family/friends if you are in need of dialysis for acute kidney injury.