Treatment of Acute Renal Failure - Timely Steps Can Save Your Life

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Acute renal failure is a medical condition in which the kidneys suddenly lose their ability to perform their main functions of removing waste material and excess fluids and electrolytes from the body. When the kidneys are not able to perform their function, these wastes, fluids, and electrolytes keep on accumulating within the body which could prove to be life-threatening. Although this condition develops abruptly over a few days or even a few hours, it is reversible with proper treatment. Let’s have a look at the treatment of acute renal failure.

Causes and symptoms

Before we go on to acute kidney failure treatment, let’s take a brief look at the causes and symptoms of this condition. Any condition or situation that damages the kidneys, blocks the blood flow to the kidneys, or prevents the accumulated wastes to pass through the urine can cause acute renal failure. This could include, but is not limited to, severe burns, severe dehydration, and kidney stones.

The symptoms of this kidney condition largely depend on the underlying cause. They may include, but are not limited to, prolonged bleeding, severe vomiting, high urine output or no urine output, metallic taste in mouth, and pain between the ribs and the hips.

Diagnosis and treatment

A physician will diagnose your condition by taking your medical history, carrying out a physical examination and performing tests such as urine tests, blood tests, imaging tests, or a kidney biopsy. These tests and examinations will help the physician in diagnosing the underlying cause also.

The goal of treatment is to restore the function of the kidneys and also prevent the build-up of wastes and fluids in the body. Treatment will require hospital stay and the length of the stay will depend on the underlying cause and how soon your kidneys are able to recover and perform their normal functions. Here are some of the options that a physician may use to treat acute renal failure.

Intravenous fluids

If the acute kidney failure is caused by a lack of fluids in the blood, the physician may recommend intravenous fluids to compensate for the lack of fluids.


In some cases, the renal failure may have happened due to an excess of body fluid. This often appears as a swelling in the arms and legs of the individual. In such cases, the excess fluid will need to be expelled out of the body and the physician may take the help of diuretics.

Continue reading this article on the next page for more information on acute renal failure treatment.

Controlling blood potassium levels

If the kidneys are not able to filter the potassium from the blood, it can accumulate and reach dangerous levels causing arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat. It is, therefore, necessary to keep the level of potassium under control and for this the physician may prescribe calcium, glucose, or sodium polystyrene sulfonate (Kayexalate).

Restoring calcium levels

Since acute renal failure can lead to depletion in calcium levels, an individual may also be prescribed an infusion of calcium given through the veins.

Prevention of infections

The physician may also prescribe antibiotics for the treatment of any infections. Antibiotics may also be prescribed for the prevention of infections.


Removal of toxins from the blood is an important part of acute renal failure treatment and dialysis or hemodialysis may be required for the same. Although not always necessary, it can save the individual’s life, especially if the potassium levels are dangerously high. It may also be needed if you stop urinating, retain excessive fluid, cannot eliminate nitrogen from the body, or if there is a change in your mental status. Dialysis is a medical procedure in which a machine is used to pump the blood out of your body through a dialyzer, which works like an artificial kidney. Once the waste is filtered out, the blood is returned back to the body.


If the underlying cause of the acute renal failure is tumors, prostate disorders, or kidney stones, the physician may suggest appropriate surgeries for the treatment of the related condition.

Lifestyle Changes

While you are recovering from this acute condition, the amount of liquids you consume will be limited to the amount of urine your kidneys are able to produce. You may need to consult a dietician to choose the foods that are suitable for you. These will include eating foods that are low in potassium, such as apples, cabbage, carrots, grapes, and green beans. The amount of sodium will need to be limited by avoiding products with added salts, such as snack foods, canned vegetables and soups, and processed meats and cheeses. The diet also needs to be low in carbohydrates and proteins.

Intensive treatment of acute renal failure is necessary since it is a potentially life-threatening condition. Once the underlying cause is treated, the kidneys may take several weeks to months to begin functioning normally. With proper treatment and precautions, acute kidney failure can be treated and conditions such as chronic renal failure, end-stage renal disease, and even death may be avoided.


Mayo Acute kidney failure

Medline Plus: Acute Kidney Failure

Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center: Acute Renal Failure