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Kidney Swelling (Hydronephrosis)

  • What is Kidney Swelling (Hydronephrosis)?

    Hydronephrosis is the swelling of the kidney caused by the build-up of urine in the kidney. It is a common abnormality of the urinary tract and is caused by the blockage of urine flow in the ureter (the tube that removes urine from the kidney into the bladder). Hydronephrosis is mainly a congenital condition, ie. babies are born with it.

  • The causes of hydronephrosis include:

    • Partial blockage at the upper end of the ureter (junction between the kidney and the urine drain pipe)
    • Backflow of urine into the kidneys
    • Blockage of the lower end of the ureter
  • The symptoms of hydronephrosis include:

    • A large lump in the stomach
    • Pain caused by a swollen kidney

    If the condition is discovered after these symptoms have occurred, most of the kidney function would have been destroyed, although the other unaffected kidney can still work normally.

  • Hydronephrosis in babies is examined using kidney ultrasound and kidney function scans. The results will allow the doctor to find the location of the blockage and suggest a suitable treatment option for the baby:

    • No action may be required in some cases, as the baby’s kidney can get better over time
    • Surgery may be needed if the upper end of the ureter is partially blocked to relieve the pressure on the kidney
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