Introduction to Acute Kidney Injury
Acute kidney injury is the sudden and dramatic loss of kidney function. This can happen rapidly, often in just a few days. In many cases the kidney can recover almost completely from acute kidney failure, but urgent treatment including dialysis may be needed while waiting for the kidneys to recover.
If acute kidney injury (known as AKI) is detected early, before there is complete acute kidney failure, treatment may prevent the kidneys failing completely and enable them to recover more quickly.
In situations where there is a high risk of developing acute kidney failure, simple treatments cannot often prevent the kidney problem developing
What causes acute kidney injury?
Acute kidney injury has three main causes:
- A sudden, serious drop in blood flow to the kidneys.
- Damage from some medicines, poisons, or infections.
- A sudden blockage that stops urine from flowing out of the kidneys.
You have a greater chance of getting acute kidney injury if:
- You are an older adult.
- You have a long-term health problem such as kidney or liver disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart failure, or obesity.
- You are already very ill and are in the hospital, especially in the intensive care unit (ICU). Heart or abdomen surgery or a bone marrow transplant can make you more likely to have kidney failure.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of acute kidney injury may include:
- Passing little or no urine.
- Swelling, especially in your legs and feet.
- Not feeling like eating.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Feeling confused, anxious and restless, or sleepy.
Some people may not have any symptoms. And for people who are already quite ill, the problem that’s causing the acute kidney failure may be causing other symptoms.
Acute Kidney Injury prevalence
In the developed world AKI is often seen in hospital settings: U.S. data suggests that 5% to 20% of critically ill patients (patients in the intensive care unit) experience an episode of AKI during the course of their illness, and development of AKI has a major negative impact on outcomes of any illness. So greater awareness of AKI is needed among all health workers. There are also important opportunities for prevention, especially by careful attention to prescription medicines management in elderly people.
In the developing world, AKI has a different pattern, with many cases developing because of infections and severe dehydration (including for example gastroenteritis and malaria). Victims of crush injuries in natural disasters such as earthquakes often die of acute kidney failure. Many cases of AKI can be prevented simply by educating the community, and local workers about prevention and early warning signs requiring immediate intervention.